JERUSALEM: A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended for two more days, the key mediator Qatar announced on Monday, which would have been the final day of the cease-fire.
The extension came as 11 more hostages were freed from Gaza, along with the release of another 33 Palestinian prisoners -- the last exchange under the existing deal.
In the fourth swap under the original four-day truce, 11 Israeli hostages, all women and children, were released from Hamas captivity Monday night in the Gaza Strip. Early Tuesday, 33 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed and driven to the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
The truce deal has brought more shipments of fuel and supplies into Gaza — although aid groups say that barely makes a dent in the needs of the 2.3 million Palestinians who have endured weeks of Israeli siege and bombardment.
Monday’s releases bring the number of Israelis freed to 50, along with 19 hostages of other nationalities. So far, 150 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons.
Roughly 240 hostages were captured by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that ignited the war. One was freed by Israeli forces and two were found dead inside Gaza.
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, roughly two thirds of them women and minors, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza. Some 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas. At least 77 soldiers have been killed in Israel’s ground offensive.
Late Monday, 11 hostages arrived in Israel, the country's military said.
"Our forces will accompany them until they are reunited with their families," it said in a statement, adding that the military "salutes and embraces the released hostages upon their return home".
Most of the group are dual nationals, with Argentinians, Germans and French among those released, and all 11 were from the Nir Oz kibbutz, the community said.
The releases brought "a sigh of relief to our community, however, we remain deeply concerned about our loved ones that are still held hostage," kibbutz official Osnat Peri said.
Images released by the Israeli military showed French-Israeli child Eitan Yahalomi reunited with his mother, who gripped him tightly to her.
Shortly after the arrival of the hostages was confirmed, Israel's prison authority said 33 Palestinian inmates had been released.
In east Jerusalem, prisoner Muhammad Abu Al-Humus called his release "an indescribable joy" and kissed his mother's hand as he entered his home, while crowds in the West Bank town of Beitunia waved green Hamas flags to greet those arriving on a coach.
But nearby there were also clashes with Israeli troops by Ofer prison, with Palestinians burning tyres and throwing stones. The Palestinian health ministry said one person was killed.
Family of the freed 4-year-old hostage says she is safe and being evaluated at the hospital
A day after 4-year-old Israeli-American hostage Abigail Edan was released by Hamas, her family has given an update on the girl's well-being.
“Abigail is still being evaluated at Schneider Children’s Medical Center, where she was taken immediately upon her release,” the statement said.
The girl is “safe” and being looked after by her aunt, uncle and grandparents, the statement said. Her parents were killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 incursion into Israel.
(With inputs from AP, AFP)