Israel and Hamas agreed to extend the Gaza ceasefire by at least one more day to allow for more hostage releases.
On Thursday, just minutes before the six-day ceasefire was due to expire, Israel’s military said in a statement the truce will continue.
“In light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing the hostages and subject to the terms of the framework, the operational pause will continue,” said the Israeli statement released on Thursday.
Hamas announced in a separate statement that a consensus had been reached to extend the ceasefire for a seventh day.
The extension of the ceasefire had been uncertain up until the last hour as Israel and Hamas couldn’t come to an agreement over the new list of Israeli hostages slated for release from Gaza.
The truce between Hamas and Israel was due to expire at 7am local time (5am GMT).
Earlier, Hamas had claimed that Israel had declined to receive seven women and child hostages and the bodies of three others, who the militant group said were killed during the Israeli military’s bombardment of Gaza, in exchange for a temporary truce extension on Thursday.
“This is despite confirming through mediators that this group is all the (Hamas) movement has in terms of detainees in the agreed-upon category,” Hamas said in a statement, according to Al Jazeera.
Hamas freed 16 Israeli and foreign hostages in exchange for 30 Palestinian women and child prisoners late on Wednesday.
Qatar, a key mediator of the truce negotiations, said that 10 of the freed captives were included in the current truce arrangement, while four Thai citizens and two Russian-Israelis were freed outside the terms of that agreement.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s foreign affairs ministry stated that further negotiations are ongoing in hopes of reaching a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
During the six-day ceasefire, authorities said that 97 Israeli and foreign hostages were released by Hamas and 210 Palestinians were freed from Israeli prisons.
Just before announcing the ceasefire extension, both Israel and Hamas had resorted to increasingly aggressive rhetoric, with the Israeli military saying it was ready for the next stage of the war.
“Over the past few days I’ve been hearing this question – will Israel go back to fighting after maximising this phase of returning our hostages? So my answer is unequivocal – yes,” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Hamas’ military wing had also asked its fighters to be ready for combat in case the ceasefire was not extended. The Al-Qassam Brigades had earlier on Telegram asked the fighters to maintain a high combat readiness.