As part of a humanitarian truce, Israel released 50 Palestinian women and minors on Wednesday, in return for 12 Israeli detainees held by Hamas in Gaza. The Palestinian resistance group also freed two Russian captives at the request of the Russian leadership. However, Hamas announced that three of its prisoners had died in a previous Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip.
The truce, which was mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States, entered its sixth day on Wednesday, with high-level talks resuming in Doha. The participants included the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service (GIS) Abbas Kamel, the head of the Israeli Mossad, Dedi Barnea, the Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Bill Burns, and the Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani.
Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majid Al-Ansari told CNN that Doha is optimistic about extending the truce between Hamas and Israel in the coming hours. He added: “Negotiations on the truce are continuing and proceeding in a positive environment.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority reported that there are efforts in Israel to extend the ceasefire after the end of the additional two days of the truce.
The Palestinian and Israeli sides had agreed to extend the humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip for two more days, under the same previous conditions, namely a ceasefire and the entry of humanitarian aid. This came within the framework of the Egyptian-Qatari mediation, in partnership with the United States.
Despite the truce, Israeli gunboats shelled the coast of Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip, at dawn on Wednesday.
In the same context, the G7 foreign ministers issued a joint statement supporting the extension of the current truce and a future truce in Gaza if necessary, to increase aid and facilitate the release of all detainees and prisoners.
The joint statement called for every effort to be made to ensure humanitarian support reaches civilians, including food, water, fuel, and medical supplies. The group also expressed in its statement its commitment to establishing a Palestinian state within the framework of the two-state solution.
For his part, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the agreements reached by Hamas and Israel with the help of Qatar, Egypt, and the United States.
He said on Wednesday that more than 14,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of Israeli military operations. He added that the number of children killed in Gaza is more than in any conflict by any party since he was appointed Secretary-General.
“It is clear that we have witnessed serious violations, and 80% of the population of Gaza have been expelled from their homes and are being pushed towards the south. I stress the sanctity of the United Nations headquarters, and today they protect more than a million civilians searching for safety,” Guterres said, noting that since the beginning of the aggression, 111 UN workers have been killed in Gaza, and this is the largest loss for the organization in its history.
Nevertheless, the World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Margaret Harris confirmed in a press conference that the needs in the Gaza Strip are enormous, saying: “The amount of aid that we have been able to obtain is still small.”
The WHO announced that it is witnessing a major increase in some infectious diseases, especially diarrhea cases among young children, 45 times more than usual, while the majority of hospitals are no longer working and the health system is collapsing.
Harris warned that if the health system is not reformed and essential products such as food, water, and medicines are not provided reliably, “in the long run we will see more people dying from the disease than from bombing.”