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Israeli security forces stand next to buses waiting at the helipad of Tel Aviv's Schneider medical centre on 24 November 2023, amid preparations for the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners later in the day. (Photo by Jack GUEZ /AFP)

Hamas-Israel Hostage Exchange and Ceasefire Progresses

Today is the fourth and final day of the first truce agreement between Israel and Hamas in the current war. So far, 39 Israeli hostages have been released by Hamas under the terms of the truce, and Israel released 117 Palestinian detainees. The hostages and detainees to be released under the deal are all women and minors; in total, Hamas agreed to free at least 50 hostages and Israel agreed to release 150 Palestinians from its prisons.

Negotiations are continuing for an extended ceasefire in the Hamas-Israel conflict in Gaza, with Israel offering a day’s pause in fighting and 30 Palestinian detainees for every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas, The New York Times reported. Mediators in Qatar have been working with both sides to resolve issues around the list of people to be exchanged today and to secure a two-day extension of the truce.

As of 11:30 a.m. ET on 27 November, Hamas and Qatar said an agreement has been reached for a two-day extension of the pause. Israel did not immediately confirm the extension to Western media.

The agreement so far has been tense but successful. On 25 November, Hamas threatened to postpone the second trade, claiming that Israel had reneged on parts of the agreement, but hours later the exchange went ahead. Hostages released on 26 November included a 4-year-old dual Israeli-U.S. citizen and multiple mothers and their children. Under separate negotiations, another 19 hostages in Gaza (primarily non-Israelis or those with dual citizenship) have been released since 24 November.

Around 240 people were believed to be held hostage in Gaza after the 7 October attacks.

The pause in fighting enabled the delivery of humanitarian aid. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) delivered hundreds of aid trucks into Gaza throughout the truce, although the UN warns more aid is needed. Aid such as water, food, medicine, and blankets has been in high demand, and overcrowding and poor sanitation at shelters heightens risks of communicable diseases and hygiene-related conditions, according to NPR.

Children in particular have been heavily affected by the war. A Unicef worker told the BBC that he has never seen so many children badly injured by a conflict. Children make up roughly 50 percent of Gaza’s population, Al Jazeera reported.

The Israeli counter-assault on Gaza following the 7 October Hamas attacks in Israel has caused nearly 80 percent of the territory’s 2.2 million people to be internally displaced. Many northern Gazans fled south to avoid the fighting. The pause in attacks enabled many northern Gazans to take stock of the damage to their neighborhoods and search for loved ones, the BBC reported.

The 7 October attacks left around 1,200 people dead in Israel. So far, more than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed during the seven weeks of Israeli air strikes and ground assaults in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials. NPR noted that the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip reports a higher death toll, but the ministry does not distinguish between civilians and militants in its count.

If the truce extension fails, the deal will expire on the morning of 28 November.