Hostage exchange continues, Israel, Hamas agree to extend truce – Mondoweiss

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Casualties

  • 15,000+ killed*, including 6,150 children, and 33,000 wounded in Gaza Strip.
  • 238 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,200

*This figure is based on an estimate as reported by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa on October 28. Due to breakdowns in communication networks within the Gaza Strip (particularly in northern Gaza), the Gaza Ministry of Health has not been able to regularly update its tolls.

Key Developments

  • As of Tuesday evening, 69 captives held by Hamas, the majority of them Israelis, were released from the Gaza Strip, while 150 Palestinians were freed from Israeli prisons.
  • Hamas chief Yahya Al-Sinwar met Israeli captives in Gaza tunnels and spoke with them in Hebrew in the early days of the war, Channel 12 reported.
  • Palestinian prisoners released on Monday spoke of ill-treatment, lack of proper food, and beatings inside Israeli prisons.
  • Israeli forces kicked out the Al Jazeera crew from the house of Nofoth Hammad, 16, the youngest female prisoner in Israeli prisons. Hammad was accused of attempting to stab an Israeli settler and sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2021.
  • UNICEF spokesperson said that “sorrow and sadness have taken root here in Gaza.” 
  • PA Minister of Health, Mai Keileh, said that 35,000 Palestinians were injured and 6,000 are missing in the Gaza Strip.
  • Israel released 150 Palestinians but arrested 260 others during the four days of temporary truce.
  • Smotrich doubles down on his war budget.

Temporary truce between Israel and Hamas extended for an extra two days

The truce between Israel and Hamas was extended for an extra two days, on Monday evening, in which Israel would release 65 women and underage prisoners in exchange for 20 captives held by Hamas.

The diplomatic pressure was mounting until Monday afternoon to renew the truce and pave the way for ending Israel’s aggression on the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 15,000 Palestinians since October 7.

Many parties, including the White House, have welcomed the extension of the truce, which was the result of mediation efforts by Qatar.

Majed al-Ansari, the spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that they got a confirmation from Hamas that “20 extra hostages will be released in the next two days, and on the Palestinian side that would mean from Israeli jails… 65 Palestinians will be released.”

Till Tuesday evening, 69 captives held by Hamas, the majority of them are Israelis, were released from Gaza Strip, and 150 Palestinians were freed from Israeli prisons.

“This is a hopeful moment for us that we can build on that momentum to increase the number of hostages being released,” Ansari told Al-Jazeera, “but also to prepare the ground for a more sustainable truce to negotiations taking place.”

During a media briefing in Doha, Ansari described the negotiation as “difficult.”

“Each party has its own demands and reservations. We’re doing our best to sort things out. But the toughest party was Israel,” he said.

Hamas leader met Israeli captives in Gaza tunnels while Palestinians were ill-treated inside Israeli prisons

Hamas handed 11 Israelis, three of them French dual citizens, to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday evening. Israel released 33 Palestinian prisoners, 30 of whom are underage children and three of whom are women.

The ICRC convoy carrying the Israeli captives made its way from Gaza into Israel without passing through Egyptian territories. On Sunday, the convoy also drove directly to Israel after Hamas handed the captives in the center of Gaza City at Falasteen roundabout in a show of force, sending a message that they are in control of the area.

Three of the captives released on Monday were French nationals. France’s Foreign Minister confirmed that they were “in good health” and added that five French nationals remain missing or in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

“Now we must work relentlessly for the release of all the other hostages,” the minister added.

Some of the Israeli captives in the Gaza Strip had met Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar in Gaza tunnels, according to one of the captives in a Channel 12 report.

“Hello, I am Yahya Sinwar, you are the most protected here. Nothing will happen to you,” Sinwar, who spent 24 years in Israeli prisons and speaks Hebrew, told them in the early days of the war.

Yet, Palestinian prisoners released on Monday spoke of ill-treatment, lack of proper food, and beatings inside Israeli prisons.

Muhammad Nazzal, a teenager from Qabatiya village near Jenin, was one of them, and was sentenced to six months in administrative detention but eventually spent three months in jail before his release. He spoke to the media with his arm wrapped in a sling and a cast after he suffered from fractured and broken bones due to Israeli jailers beating him along with other prisoners.

“Since October 7, we have been living in very difficult health conditions. The occupation soldiers have brutally beaten us until the prisoner lost consciousness. People were crying from the severity of the beatings,” he said.

“I had a fractured [bone] in one of my fingers, and other bruises on my hand and body. I spent my last month in prison as if it were 20 years,” he added.

In the occupied city of Jerusalem, Israeli occupation forces stormed the houses of prisoners Nofoth Hammad in Sheikh Jarrah, Adam Ghaith and Salah al-Hadra from the Mount of Olives, and Muhammad Muhannad Abu al-Homs from Al-Issawiya. Their families were warned not to hold any celebrations or gatherings after the release.

Israeli forces kicked out the Al Jazeera crew from the house of Nofoth Hammad, 16, the youngest female prisoner. Hammad was accused of attempting to stab an Israeli settler and sentenced to 12 years in prison. She was arrested in 2021 in Shiekh Jarrah, where several Palestinian families live under the threat of being evicted by Israeli settlers and police. 

Israel destroyed libraries and cultural centers in Gaza as Palestinians live in desperate conditions

Despite the truce, Palestinians in Gaza still live amid catastrophic conditions. No landmark or neighborhood has been spared te Israeli bombardment. Israeli forces destroyed cultural and educational institutions, including Gaza City’s Municipal Public Library, the Rashad El-Shawa Cultural Center, the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Library, the Municipal printing press, the Childhood Happiness Center, and the Islamic University.

James Elder, the UNICEF spokesperson, described the conditions in Gaza as “desperate” during a recent visit.

“Just seeing apartment block after apartment block, destroyed rubble on the ground, concrete, blown-up cars…whether it’s just the look on people’s faces, just the trauma…as if sorrow and sadness have taken root here in Gaza,” he said in a video posted on the UNICEF’s website.

“It’s a war zone… You’ve got hundreds of thousands of children who are not in school, who are in very overcrowded camps, who are cold, who do not have enough food, do not have enough water, who are now at risk of a disease outbreak,” Elder added.

A spokesperson of the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA), Muhammad Adnan Abu Hasna, told Al Jazeera that in northern Gaza’s Al-Nuseirat refugee camp, “people are lining up at the last working petrol station.”

“Aid trucks are supposed to deliver gas to this station as people are using wood for cooking and keeping warm. Ambulances are also lined up, hoping to fill up. We can confirm that 100 trucks entered northern Gaza [on Tuesday] and that some water desalination plants were provided with fuel,” he said.

Before October 7, Gaza needed a daily supply of 500 aid trucks of fuel, medical supplies, and food to meet the needs of the 2.3 million Palestinians. 

“At least 200 trucks are needed on a daily basis to provide basic life supplies to the people of Gaza. Those who have fled are in poor health and there are reports of disease breakouts in the shelters,” Abu Hasna added.

On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera reported that Israeli authorities extended the detention of the director of Al-Shifa Hospital, Muhammad Abu Selmia, for another 45 days pending investigation. Abu Selmia was arrested last week in Gaza after Israel took control of Al-Shifa and forced patients and medical staff to evacuate it.

In an apparent violation of the ceasefire terms, Al Jazeera also reported that an Israeli tank had fired a shell on Tuesday near the Shiekh Radwan neighborhood northwest of Gaza City. On Monday, Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinians attempting to inspect their house in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp.

Yet the truce holds. UN chief Antonio Guterres said that he hoped the extension of the truce would allow more humanitarian aid to reach people in Gaza.

“Knowing that even with that additional amount of time, it will be impossible to satisfy all the dramatic needs of the population,” Guterres said.

The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Health, Mai Keileh, said on Tuesday that 35,000 Palestinians were injured, 6,000 are missing in Gaza, and 470 people are receiving treatment in Egyptian hospitals.

Keileh said that 26 hospitals out of 35 went out of service as a result of the Israeli aggression. The toll of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip was not updated on Tuesday, but it is estimated to exceed 15,000 people.

Israel released 150 Palestinians but arrested 260 others during the four days of temporary truce

Three Palestinians were killed on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank.

Malik Majid Abdel Fattah Daghra, 17, was shot with live bullets in the shoulder, abdomen, and foot during an Israeli raid on Kafr Ain village northwest of Ramallah. 

Yassin Abdullah Al-Asmar, 26, from the town of Beitunia, was also shot with bullets in the chest during clashes with the occupation forces. Amr Ahmad Jamil Wahdan, 14, from Tayasir village near Nablus, succumbed to his wounds after being shot by Israeli forces this morning. Several Palestinians were also injured in Tubas, Beitunia, and Dheisheh refugee camp.

Israeli forces blew up the house of Daoud Abdel Razzaq Daras, 41, in Deir Ammar refugee camp, west of Ramallah. Daras was shot and killed on August 31 when he carried out a car-ramming attack on a military checkpoint near the illegal settlement of Modiin, killing one Israeli soldier and injuring three others.

Since the temporary truce went into effect last Friday, Israeli forces arrested 260 Palestinians in the West Bank. Inside Israeli jails, 60 female prisoners are currently detained, and 56 of them have been arrested since October 7, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club.

In total, 3,260 Palestinians were arrested, and 238 were killed since October 7.

Smotrich doubles down on his war budget, Netanyahu tells Likud, ‘I knew Biden for 40 years’

In the past 24 hours, several statements by western officials have stressed the importance of the establishment of a Palestinian state. U.S. President Joe Biden tweeted on Monday, “A two-state solution is the only way to guarantee the long-term security of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

“To make sure Israelis and Palestinians alike live in equal measure of freedom and dignity, we will not give up on working towards that goal,” he added.

Settlers’ leaders are now sitting as ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and are adamant to foil any attempts to set up a Palestinian state.

Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right Finance Minister, doubled down on his “war budget” that was approved on Monday, after criticism by the Palestinian Authority and EU officials that it aimed to expand settlements in violation of international law.

Smotrich tweeted: “We will strengthen the settlement and cripple the Nazis wherever they are to ensure that ‘never again!’” describing Palestinians in Gaza Strip and West Bank as “Nazis.”

Netanyahu is also set to block the establishment of a Palestinian state. Kan News revealed a Likud conversation in which Netanyahu told Knesset members that he was the “only one” to prevent a Palestinian state and he knew how to talk to the public in the U.S., where he served as Israel’s ambassador in the 1980s.

“I am the only one who will prevent a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank after the war,” he said.

“The Americans didn’t want us to enter on the ground. They didn’t want us to go to Shifa. We did both, this and that. I’ve known Biden for more than 40 years and know how to speak to the public opinion in the U.S.,” he told Likud’s MKs.

Netanyahu had vowed to resume the war after the release of captives and prisoners. What will happen after Wednesday remains unclear. John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesman, said on Monday, “I won’t speak for the Israeli Defense Forces, but when these pauses are over, they have made it very clear that they’re going to continue to target Hamas leadership.” 

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