Sunday, March 3, 2024

More prisoners freed as Israel-Hamas truce deal holds, calls to extend grows

Khalil Awar kissing his father's hand after a difficult year in an Israeli jail. Khalil was kidnapped from his house in Jerusalem during a routine raid by the Israeli military. He was released after the truce deal.
Photo Courtesy: Quds News Agency

A third batch of 39 Palestinian prisoners has been freed on Sunday as the exchange of captives between Hamas and Israel continues for a third day under a four-day truce deal.

Hamas handed over 13 Israeli captives, including nine children and four foreign nationals – three Thais and one Israeli Russian – to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Al Jazeera reported.

Around 150 Palestinian prisoners and 50 civilian captives held in Gaza are to be released over four days under the Israel-Hamas deal.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden said his administration is working to extend the four-day truce.

“To keep this pause in fighting going beyond tomorrow is our goal – so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief to those in need,” Biden said in a message posted on X.

Biden’s comments came as both Israel and Hamas expressed openness to extending the truce, which is due to expire on Monday.

Since the start of the pause in fighting on Friday, Israel has released 117 Palestinian prisoners and Hamas has freed 58 captives.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the truce could be extended if more captives are released at a rate of 10 per day.

On Sunday, Netanyahu visited Gaza for the first since the Gaza assault began last month and said, “Nothing will stop us, and we are convinced that we have the power, the strength, the will and the determination to achieve all the war’s goals, and we will.”

Pope Francis has welcomed the truce between Hamas and Israel and said he prayed for more captives to be released.

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