A four-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas will be extended by two days, the White House confirmed Monday, following negotiations mediated by Qatar and Egypt.
Hamas, which has released more than 50 hostages in the last three days of the temporary truce, will free 20 more women and children over the next two days, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
The two-day extension was first announced by Qatar’s foreign ministry and Hamas, just 12 hours before the deal was set to expire. Israel is yet to comment on the extension.
The U.S., Egypt, and Qatar have pressed Israel for an extension in the temporary ceasefire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly said that he will extend the truce by one day for every 10 hostages released by Hamas.
On a trip to the Gaza Strip Sunday, Netanyahu vowed to continue the war, telling Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in the enclave that “we will continue until the end — until victory. Nothing will stop us.”
An agreement to release more hostages may mean the ceasefire continues, but Israel has signaled its eagerness to return to the war. One analyst said it’s unlikely that the pause will continue for long. “I can’t see the truce lasting more than a week,” Miri Eisin, a former Israeli military intelligence specialist, told The Guardian, adding that the IDF’s goal of dismantling Hamas is only possible through an extended ground campaign in the Gaza Strip. That means hostilities could continue for months.
Palestinian civilians who ventured into northern Gaza during the ceasefire found their homes and neighborhoods leveled by Israel’s weeks-long siege. “Our lives have been destroyed. Our families have been broken. There are no houses left, only stones,” one woman told Israeli outlet Haaretz. Palestinians have questioned what they could hope to achieve during the brief ceasefire: Some aid has been allowed into Gaza, and residents of the enclave are now tasked with sourcing enough food, water, and winter clothing for the weeks ahead.
The fallout of the war has continued to reverberate around the world, including in the U.S., where internal divisions among White House staffers have grown as hostilities have progressed. The conflict has become the biggest crisis of U.S. President Joe Biden’s term, and questions are swirling about how the administration plans to temper support for Israel with the ever-growing humanitarian toll of the war, The Washington Post reported. Biden’s full-throated support of Israel has cost the U.S. some of its international standing, with some developing nations calling Washington hypocritical.