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Gaza truce extended by one day

A Palestinian vendor offers his products in an open-air market near the ruins of houses and buildings destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday. — Reuters
A Palestinian vendor offers his products in an open-air market near the ruins of houses and buildings destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, amid a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday. — Reuters
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GAZA: Israel and Hamas struck a last-minute agreement on Thursday to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day, while mediators pressed on with talks to extend the truce further to free more hostages and let aid reach Gaza.


The truce has halted bombing and allowed some humanitarian aid into Gaza after much of the coastal territory of 2.3 million people was reduced to wasteland in an Israeli campaign in retaliation for a deadly rampage by Hamas on Oct. 7.


The armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting in Jerusalem, which Israel called further proof of the need to destroy the group, although there were no signs of this scuppering the Gaza truce or release of hostages.


Israel, which has demanded Hamas release at least 10 hostages per day to keep the ceasefire going, said it received a list at the last minute of those who would go free on Thursday, allowing it to call off plans to resume fighting at dawn.


"In light of the mediators' efforts to continue the process of releasing the hostages and subject to the terms of the framework, the operational pause will continue," the Israeli military said in a statement, released minutes before the truce was due to expire at 0500 GMT.


Hamas, which freed 16 hostages on Wednesday while Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners, also said the truce would continue for a seventh day.


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Israel during his third visit to the Middle East since the war began, said the truce was "producing results. It's important, and we hope it can continue".


"We have seen over the last week the very positive development of hostages coming home, being reunited with their families. And that should continue today," he said. "It's also enabled an increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately."


US officials said Blinken also told the Israelis to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians once the war resumes.


Egypt's state media body said Egyptian and Qatari mediators were working to negotiate a further extension of the truce for two days.


So far militants have released 97 hostages during the truce: 70 Israeli women and children, each freed in return for three Palestinian women and teenage detainees, plus 27 foreign hostages freed under parallel agreements with their governments.


With fewer Israeli women and children left in captivity, extending the truce could require setting new terms for the release of Israeli men, including soldiers.


According to the United Nations, up to 80 per cent of Gazans have been forced from their homes, including nearly all residents of the northern half, which Israel ordered completely evacuated. Once the truce is over, Israel is expected to extend its ground campaign into the south.


Gazans have been able to use the week-long truce to venture out, visit abandoned and destroyed homes, and dig scores more bodies out of the wreckage. But residents and international agencies say the aid that has arrived so far is still trivial compared to the besieged enclave's vast humanitarian needs.


Those who fled the north of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, have still been blocked from returning. Many thousands of families are sleeping rough in makeshift shelters with only the belongings they could carry.


"What is a truce that doesn’t bring us back home? Israeli soldiers on tanks fired at us when we tried to go back to check on our homes in Gaza City after we heard it was bombed," said Mohammad Joudat, 25, a displaced business administration graduate, speaking in Deir al-Balah in the southern Gaza Strip. — Reuters


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