Tel Aviv [Israel], November 30: A sixth group of hostages were set to be freed by Hamas in Gaza on Wednesday as international mediators sought another extension to the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas.
So far under the deal brokered with the help of Qatar, Hamas has released 81 Israelis and foreigners in exchange for 180 Palestinians from Israeli prisons.
The agreement also quieted Israel's ferocious military assault on the Gaza Strip following the October 7 massacres by Hamas and others that killed 1,200 in southern Israel. About 240 others were taken to Gaza as hostages.
The truce that went into effect on Friday was the first break in fighting after seven weeks of war. It was extended by two more days on Monday.
Israel has said it is open to prolonging the halt in fighting by 24 hours for every 10 hostages released, for a maximum of 10 days. The Israeli government had already received another list of hostages that Hamas said it is ready to release on Wednesday, according to Israeli media.
A senior member of Hamas said two female hostages with Russian citizenship would be released in addition to 10 Israeli hostages. Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk told a radio station in the Gaza Strip that the release of the Russians was outside the deal with Israel and made as a gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Israeli hostages are to be handed over in return for the release of another 30 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, he said.
As the truce deadline loomed, Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad told broadcaster Al Jazeera that intensive talks were under way to secure a second extension.
The United States, one of Israel's staunchest allies, has also called for the halt in fighting to continue.
"We'd like to see the pause extended, because what it has enabled, first and foremost, is hostages being released, coming home, being reunited with their families," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels.
"It's also enabled us to surge humanitarian assistance [to] the people of Gaza who so desperately need it," he added.
An aid delivery has arrived at a UN emergency shelter in the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the Gaza Strip.
It is the first time relief supplies have been delivered there since the beginning of the Gaza war. Six lorries arrived at the shelter on Monday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced on Wednesday. The area had been cut off from aid for almost 50 days.
The UNRWA says it has now managed to supply several UN emergency shelters in the north with tents, blankets, water, medicine and ready-to-eat food. Thomas White, UNRWA director for Gaza, described grim scenes during his visit to the north of the territory, where much of the fighting between Hamas and Israel has taken place.
"Buildings have just been cleaved open. A mess of masonry, twisted metal and sheet iron blown everywhere," he said. "As we drove through Gaza City it was like a ghost town; all the streets were deserted. The impact of heavy airstrikes and shelling was so visible. Roads are riddled with craters, complicating aid deliveries." The UNRWA reports that more than 70 percent of the population have been forced from their homes.
Source: Qatar Tribune