On November 28, 2023, in a historic move, the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was extended for the first time. The extension, mediated by Qatar, with support from Egypt and the United States, aims to facilitate the release of remaining hostages and prisoners and expedite aid delivery to the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Unprecedented Truce Extension
The initial truce, established on Friday, has already seen the release of 50 hostages by Hamas and 150 Palestinian prisoners by Israel. An additional 19 hostages, mostly foreign workers, were also released by Hamas outside of the agreement. The two-day extension of the ceasefire, from Tuesday at 5 AM GMT to Thursday at 5 AM GMT, is expected to facilitate the release of approximately 20 more hostages and 60 prisoners. Both Palestinian and Israeli sides have agreed to the humanitarian pause extension under the same terms, maintaining a release ratio of one hostage for three prisoners.
Night of Freedom and Tragedy
During the past night, 11 Israeli hostages were freed, and Israel subsequently released 33 Palestinian prisoners, including Mohamed Abou al Humus. Celebrations in Beitunia, West Bank, however, were cut short as a Palestinian youth was tragically shot dead during violent clashes with Israeli forces.
Hostage Release and Military Budget Increase
The office of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in response to the ongoing situation, agreed to a military budget increase of 30.3 billion shekels (7.5 billion euros). The primary goal of this increase is to potentially resume combat to destroy Hamas, mitigate threats from Gaza, and facilitate the release of hostages. This move signifies the complex nature of the ongoing conflict.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit Israel and the West Bank. His meetings with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will focus on emphasizing the need for continued humanitarian aid to Gaza, the release of all hostages, and improved civilian protection. The international community is keenly watching the unfolding events, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.