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Mediator Qatar eyes 'sustainable truce' in Gaza

Blinken to return to Israel, West Bank — US official

By AFP - Nov 28,2023 - Last updated at Nov 28,2023

An image grab from a handout video released by the Hamas Media Office shows Hamas fighters accompanying newly released Israeli hostages (in pink) to a Red Cross vehicle, in the Gaza Strip on Monday (AFP photo)

DOHA — Mediator Qatar said on 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 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 found dead.

Israel says a total of around 240 hostages were seized when Hamas fighters stormed across Gaza’s militarised border on October 7.

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

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will pay a new crisis visit to the Middle East this week and also attend the UN climate summit in Dubai, a US official said Monday.

The official, speaking as Blinken arrived in Brussels for NATO meetings, said the top US diplomat would visit both Israel and the West Bank in his third trip since the Hamas-Israel war.

A senior official said the United States was sending three military aircraft to Egypt to bring vital humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza during a pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas

The first plane bringing medical items, food aid and winter gear will land in North Sinai on Tuesday and the other two will arrive “in coming days,” the US officials said in an embargoed briefing call on Monday.

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