In a critical development in the ongoing ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, an exchange of hostages and prisoners took place on Tuesday, marking the fifth day of the temporary truce. The exchange, which went off without a hitch according to a Hamas source, involved 10 hostages held by Hamas and 30 Palestinian prisoners. The list of hostages also included several foreign workers detained in the Gaza Strip.
Extension of Ceasefire
The ceasefire, which was due to end on Monday, was extended until Wednesday, allowing for a longer cessation of hostilities, the entry of more aid into Gaza, and more hostage-prisoner exchanges. Despite the truce, Israel maintains its determination to eradicate Hamas and its decade-and-a-half rule over Gaza. The ceasefire came in the aftermath of an attack by Hamas on southern Israel on October 7, in which nearly 240 hostages were taken. The Israeli response, weeks of intense airstrikes on Gaza, led to the deaths of more than 14,000 Palestinians since the war kicked off.
The Palestinian prisoners released on Tuesday included 15 women and 15 minors, many of whom had been held for days or weeks without being charged with crimes. The hostages released by Hamas comprised nine women, a teenage girl, and two Thai citizens. The exchange was facilitated by meetings in Doha between Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, CIA Director William Burns, and David Barnea, chief of Mossad, Israel's spy agency. The focus of these meetings was the release of additional hostages and the extension of the truce.
Implications of the Exchange
The extended ceasefire and the exchange of captives have allowed much-needed relief aid to reach Gaza. The truce will end after one more exchange on Wednesday night. However, Israel and Hamas have already blamed each other for an exchange of fire in northern Gaza, with no immediate indication that it would endanger the ceasefire. Notably, 50 female prisoners were included in the exchange deal by Israel, showcasing the serious efforts being made to maintain the ceasefire and secure releases on both sides.