Originally meant to expire on Monday, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been extended by at least two days. During the first four days of the ceasefire, 69 hostages abducted on 7 October, including 50 Israelis and 19 foreign nationals were freed by Hamas. In return, Israel freed 120 Palestinian prisoners, many incarcerated for terrorism offences. The deal also included a substantial increase in humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
Across the two added days of ceasefire, Hamas has agreed to release 20 additional hostages. It is likely that, following this extension, with about 170 hostages remaining in Gaza, the sides will agree to prolong the ceasefire.
The release of hostages has, so far, not gone smoothly. As part of Hamas’s psychological warfare against Israel, on Saturday shortly before the release was due to take place, the terror organisation declared that they were refusing to release hostages. Their claim was that Israel had not fulfilled its end of the agreement.
Israel rebuffed Hamas’s claim and threatened to call off the ceasefire and resume military attacks if the hostages were not released by midnight. After hours of nerve wracking negotiations with Hamas, and thanks to pressure from Egypt, Qatar and the US government, the hostages were finally released.
The trouble didn’t stop there. On Sunday, Hamas breeched the agreement not to separate mothers and children when it released 13 year old Hila Rotem but not her mother. They attempted to do the same on Monday, planning once again to release children without their mothers. Intense pressure from US President Biden on Qatar successfully managed to change this, and the mothers have also been released.
Hamas never intended to fully fulfil the terms of its agreement with Israel – at least not without orchestrating several crises along the way.