Hamas, Israel release more hostages, prisoners in fifth day
Desk Report || risingbd.com
Hamas and Israel released more hostages and prisoners under terms of a fragile cease-fire that held for a fifth day Tuesday as international mediators in Qatar worked to extend the truce and the United States urged Israel to better protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza if it follows through on its promise to resume the war.
In the latest swap since the cease-fire began Friday, Israel said 10 of its citizens and two Thai nationals were freed by Hamas and had been returned to Israel. Soon after, Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners. The truce is due to end after one more exchange Wednesday night, reports pbs.org.
For the first time, Israel and Hamas blamed each other for an exchange of fire between troops and militants in northern Gaza. There was no immediate indication it would endanger the truce, which has enabled humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.
CIA director William Burns and David Barnea, who heads Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, were in Qatar, a key mediator with Hamas, to discuss extending the cease-fire and releasing more hostages, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
A U.S. official confirmed Burns was in Qatar, speaking anonymously because the director’s travel plans are not publicized for security reasons. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to visit the region this week, also with an eye to extending the truce.
Israel has vowed to resume the war with “full force” to destroy Hamas once it’s clear that no more hostages will be freed under the deal.
The Biden administration told Israel it must avoid “significant further displacement” of and mass casualties among Palestinian civilians if it resumes its offensive, and that it must operate with more precision in southern Gaza than it has in the north, according to U.S. officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.
Hamas and other militants still hold about 160 hostages out of 240 seized in their Oct. 7 assault into southern Israel that ignited the war. Israel has said it is willing to extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages that Hamas releases, according to the deal brokered by the Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. But Hamas is expected to make much higher demands for the release of captive Israeli soldiers._Agencies.