Hamas expresses desire to extend truce with Israel past initial four days

Deal provides for extra day’s pause for each 10 hostages freed; Netanyahu: Israel open to holding fire for up to 10 days in total, but offensive will then resume with full force

Palestinians wave Hamas flags in the West Bank city of Nablus as they celebrate the release of Palestinian security prisoners. as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas for the return of Israeli hostages, November 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinians wave Hamas flags in the West Bank city of Nablus as they celebrate the release of Palestinian security prisoners. as part of a deal between Israel and Hamas for the return of Israeli hostages, November 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Hamas is seeking to extend the ongoing truce and hostage agreement beyond the initial four-day period, the terror group announced on Sunday night.

In a statement, the Palestinian terror group said it was hoping to extend the temporary ceasefire, which is currently scheduled to end on Monday night, in order to secure the release of more Palestinian security prisoners jailed by Israel.

The Qatar-negotiated deal between Israel and Hamas stipulates that 50 women and children taken hostage by Hamas during its October 7 onslaught must be freed over the course of a four-day ceasefire in exchange for 150 Palestinian female and underage security prisoners.

The deal also allows for both sides to agree to extend the truce by an additional day for every 10 hostages released after the initial 50, for a maximum of 100. In return, Israel will release up more security inmates by a ratio of three for every hostage.

Thus far, 39 Israeli hostages and 117 Palestinian prisoners have been released as part of the deal, not including an Israeli-Russian man and 19 foreign nationals freed from Gaza separately from the Israel-Hamas agreement.

The statement published by Hamas appeared to be the first time that Gaza’s ruling terror group has formally expressed its desire to extend the truce, which has allowed for the first break in the intense fighting since the outbreak of war.

Earlier Sunday, a Hamas source told AFP that the terror group was interested in extending the truce for 2-4 days, indicating that 20-40 more hostages may be freed this week.

People cheer as a vehicle carrying hostages released by Hamas drives towards Hatzerim army base in Ofakim, southern Israel, on November 26, 2023, after they were released from Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The US also expressed hope Sunday that the truce will be extended for several more days, but noted that it was up to Hamas to ensure that it does, as Israel has already set out the conditions for doing so.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in an interview on Sunday that the pause could be “extended for another day, or two days, or three days or even more.”

“The ball is in Hamas’s court on that because what Israel has said is that it is prepared to pause another day of fighting for every 10 hostages that Hamas releases,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

“If the pause stops, the responsibility for that rests on the shoulders of Hamas, not on the shoulders of Israel,” the top Biden aide asserted.

He acknowledged that the truce has allowed Hamas the ability to “refit and retool” and to “generate propaganda” on social media.

Despite this, he later told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the reason that Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately chose to accept the risks that accompany the hostage deal is “because of the benefit they’re getting, which are these incredible images of people being reunited with their families — the humanity of it, the sense of accomplishment of that and the possibility and promise that more and ultimately, all of the hostages will come home.”

Shortly after Hamas announced its desire to extend the truce, Netanyahu said in a video that he had told US President Joe Biden that he too is open to extending the current truce, but that once it is over, the IDF ground operation will return in full force.

“We brought home another group of hostages, children and women, and I am moved to the depths of my heart, the entire nation is, when we see families reunited,” he said in the video.

Netanyahu said he also told Biden that “at the end of the deal, we are returning full power to carry out our aims: destroy Hamas, ensure that Gaza won’t return to what it was, and of course to free all of our hostages.”

“I am sure that we will succeed in this mission — because we have no other choice,” he finished.

Following Hamas’s October 7 onslaught in southern Israel — in which thousands of terrorists burst through the border into Israel and killed at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 240 hostages — Israel vowed to root out Hamas from the Gaza Strip, where the group has ruled for the last 16 years.

The Jewish state launched an aerial campaign followed by a ground incursion, which has focused mainly on northern Gaza, but is expected to widen later in the war.

Although thousands of displaced Gazans have attempted to return to the remains of their homes in the northern part of the enclave, the IDF has remained adamant that the pause is temporary, and that the operation will resume with full force after the temporary truce is over.

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