Mediator Qatar eyes 'sustainable truce' in Gaza as exchange of hostages and prisoners continue

Qatar has been engaged in intense negotiations, with support from Egypt and the United States, to establish and extend a truce in Gaza.
FILE - In this image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, Israeli soldiers walk in the area of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (Photo | AP)
FILE - In this image taken from a video released by the Israeli Defense Forces on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, Israeli soldiers walk in the area of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (Photo | AP)

DOHA: Mediator Qatar said Tuesday it would use a two-day extension to a humanitarian pause in Gaza to work towards a "sustainable truce" between Israel and Hamas.

"Our main focus right now, and our hope, is to reach a sustainable truce that will lead to further negotiations and eventually to an end... to this war," foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari told a Doha news conference.

"However, we are working with what we have. And what we have right now is the provision to the agreement that allows us to extend days as long as Hamas is able to guarantee the release of at least 10 hostages."

Qatar has been engaged in intense negotiations, with support from Egypt and the United States, to establish and extend a truce in Gaza, and has previously said that it was designed to be broadened and expanded.

The gas-rich Gulf state announced late on Monday that successful talks with Israel and Hamas had resulted in a two-day extension to the truce.

Over the initial four-day pause, which had been due to expire on Monday night, a total of 50 civilian hostages -- all women and children -- were freed in return for 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Ansari confirmed the truce would continue with the release of 20 further hostages. "We are hopeful that in the next 48 hours, we will be getting more information from Hamas regarding the rest of the hostages," he added.

The spokesman said "minimal breaches" in recent days had not "harmed the essence of the agreement".

Qatar has led parallel negotiations between Hamas and other nations which led to the release of 17 Thais, one Filipino and one dual Russian-Israeli national.

Before Friday, just four hostages had been released by Hamas. A fifth had been rescued by Israeli troops and two more were found dead.

Israel says a total of around 240 hostages were seized when Hamas gunmen stormed across Gaza's militarised border on October 7 and mounted the deadliest attack in the country's history.

Israel says the attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

In response, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which the Hamas government says has killed almost 15,000 people, most of them women and children.

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