Pressure On Israel To Prolong Ceasefire

US President Joe Biden said he supports prolonging the ceasefire, which is due to end on Tuesday morning and part of a deal to free hostages held by Hamas in Gaza

Israel is coming under increasing pressure to agree to an extension of a four-day pause in its war with Hamas.

Hamas said it was willing to prolong the ceasefire, which is due to expire on Monday evening after the final scheduled release of 11 Israeli hostages. The terror group says it is still holding 10-20 women and children eligible for release under the agreement.

On Sunday night, after the release of a four-year-old American girl, President Biden expressed his hopes that the ceasefire could be extended “so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those in need in Gaza”. Nine more American-Israelis are among the remaining hostages.

The prime minister of Qatar, which has acted as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, said extending the ceasefire depended on Hamas using the time to locate more than 40 other women and children being held by other groups or individuals.

“If they get additional women and children, there will be an extension,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said. “We don’t yet have any clear information how many they can find because … one of the purposes is they will have time to search for the rest of the missing people.”

The United Nations said they had seen people, including those who evaded the guns to return to their homes in northern Gaza during the ceasefire, were moving back south on Sunday in anticipation of the bombardment restarting.

US President Joe Biden said he supports prolonging the ceasefire, which is due to end on Tuesday morning and part of a deal to free hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The halt in fighting is “critically needed” for additional aid to get into the territory and for more captives to be freed.

“This deal is delivering life-saving results,” Biden told reporters on Sunday. “This deal is structured so that it can be extended to keep building on these results. That’s my goal. That’s our goal: to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Biden on Sunday and said an extension was possible, reiterating that every extra day of the truce is conditional on 10 more hostages being released. And hesaid Israel will not change its goal of trying to destroy Hamas.

A longer truce “would be welcome,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “At the same time, I also told President Biden that at the end of the outline, we will go to realizing our goals with full force: Eliminating Hamas, ensuring that Gaza will not go back to being what it was and – of course – releasing all of our hostages.”

The temporary halt began on Friday morning after intense negotiations brokered by Qatar, with the help of Egypt and the US. Hamas and Israel agreed that the Iran-backed militant group would free 50 hostages in return for the Israeli government releasing 150 jailed Palestinians.

The pause has held so far and Hamas let go of another 17 people on Sunday, including a four-year-old girl — a US-Israeli dual national — whose parents were killed by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. That attack sparked the war.

Hamas has handed over 58 hostages through Sunday, including non-Israelis. Hamas is slated to free another 11 Israelis on Monday to fulfill the four-day agreement.

Some Israeli officials worry that the longer the pause goes on for, the harder it will be for Israel to restart the war.

“Hamas will stretch this out a long time,” said Joshua Krasna, a former senior Israeli diplomat and intelligence analyst. “The question is how much legitimacy Israel will have to restart its campaign after an extended cease-fire. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for the Israeli government to not continue the cease-fire if Hamas offers to release additional hostages.”

The civilian death toll in Gaza is causing increased concern among Democratic politicians in the US, with some calling for conditioning further military aid to Israel on compliance with international humanitarian law.

The truce includes the delivery of more food and medicine into Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The United Nations and Palestinian officials say the war’s created a humanitarian catastrophe in the territory. Israel said 200 aid trucks entered Gaza on Sunday.

The West Bank Is Being Reshaped Along With the Gaza Strip  The UN says many people still have no food or cooking fuel and that bakeries aren’t operating, raising concerns about nutrition, especially in northern Gaza, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive.

The war continues to reverberate in the wider Middle East. On Sunday, a chemical tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire was freed by a US warship after armed men boarded the vessel in the Gulf of Aden. While the US military didn’t confirm the identity of the attackers, two missiles were fired at the warship – a destroyer called the USS Mason – shortly afterwards from Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen, according to the US military.

No one on the chemical tanker, called the Central Park and part of Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group, or the Mason was injured.

The Houthis, an Iran-backed rebel group based in Yemen, support Hamas and have fired missiles toward Israel in recent weeks. They’ve also threatened Israeli ships and, on Nov. 19, seized a vehicle carrier called the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea. It’s yet to be released.

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