A humanitarian pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas will be extended by two days, mediator Qatar and Hamas say, hours before an initial four-day truce in Gaza had been set to expire.
“The State of Qatar announces that, as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Majed al-Ansari said on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday.
Qatar, the United States and Egypt have engaged in intense negotiations to establish and prolong the truce in Gaza, which mediators had said was designed to be broadened and expanded.
Over the course of the initial truce, a total of 50 civilian captives, all women and children, were expected to be freed by Hamas.
In exchange, 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel were to be released and more humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza.
Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas official, said he hoped the truce could be extended further.
“It [the possibility of an extension] was written in the agreement, that if Hamas gives more hostages, there will be more days of the ceasefire,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We have now agreed to release more hostages and extend the agreement for two days. This is good news for our people, especially the people of Gaza.
“I hope we can extend it until we reach the end of this war. We want to end the war. We are in a temporary ceasefire, but we are trying to extend it. There is lots of support from Qatar, Egypt and many Western governments to end this catastrophe,” he said.
During the first three days of the truce, 39 Israeli captives were released by the armed group in exchange for 117 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
As a result of parallel negotiations led by Qatar, 17 Thai citizens, one Filipino and one dual Russian-Israeli national have also been released by Hamas.
Hamas fighters seized about 240 hostages when they stormed from Gaza into southern Israel on October 7 and killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.
After the attack, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and a ground offensive in Gaza, killing nearly 15,000 people, including more than 6,000 children, according to Palestinian officials.
Reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim said families across the occupied Palestinian territories would be relieved by the extension.
“This is a source of relief for many families, not just the families of prisoners, but also other people in the occupied West Bank who are watching in horror images coming out of the besieged Gaza Strip.
“We are not just referring to the killings and children who’ve lost their lives but also to the people who have been displaced, to the wounded, to the many hungry and in a very difficult situation.”
The White House welcomed the extension of the truce and said it hopes Americans would be among the captives to be released in the next phase of exchanges. Eight to nine US citizens are believed to still be among those held.
The United Nations chief also hailed the two-day extension as a “glimpse of hope and humanity” but warned it was not enough time to meet the aid needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
“I strongly hope that this will enable us to increase even more the humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza that [are] suffering so much – knowing that even with that additional amount of time, it will be impossible to satisfy all the dramatic needs of the population,” Guterres told reporters.
The extension was announced as Hamas said it had received a list with the names of prisoners to be released later on Monday in exchange for Israeli captives, the group said on its Telegram channel.
The list includes three female prisoners and another 30 children.
Meanwhile, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it had informed families of the identities of the captives to be released on Monday.