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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - TEL AVIV — Israel says 10 Israeli hostages and four Thai hostages have been released by Hamas and are being transferred to Israeli territory. The move comes as international mediators are working around the clock to extend a six day truce which is due to expire Thursday morning.
Israel has agreed to prolong the truce by one day for every 10 militant-held hostages who are freed. The cease-fire, which was originally set to expire on Monday, has paused the deadliest fighting between Israel and Palestinians in decades.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday he was heading to Israel in an effort to extend the truce with Hamas.
“We would like to see this pause extended,” he said on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels, highlighting how the temporary ceasefire had enabled hostages to be freed and entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
An extension "means more hostages returning home, more aid" and that is "what we want, and I believe it's also what Israel wants," added Blinken.
On Tuesday, 12 more hostages taken from southern Israel by Hamas were exchanged for 30 Palestinian prisoners. More swaps were expected today.
First coming into force on 24 November, the truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended until Thursday morning. Every day since, Hamas has freed around ten women and children kidnapped during its bloody attack on 7 October.
Hamas said on Wednesday it was ready to extend the pause in the Gaza Strip by four days and release more hostages, as international mediators step up efforts to achieve a lasting end to the fighting between the Palestinian militants and Israel.
The Israelis have released three times as many Palestinian prisoners - most boys and teenagers accused of stone-throwing or public disorder.
Mediated also by Egypt and the United States, the agreement has already enabled the release of 60 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
Twenty-one foreign hostages, mostly Thais living in Israel, were released outside the framework of this agreement.
Israeli authorities estimate that around 240 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza on 7 October, during the unprecedented attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement.
In what was the deadliest attack in Israel's history, the violence claimed 1,200 lives in Israel, the vast majority civilians.
In retaliation, Israel promised to "annihilate" Hamas and began relentlessly bombing Gaza, launching a ground offensive on 27 October.
According to the Palestinian authorities, 14,854 people, including 6,150 under the age of 18, have been killed in Israeli strikes. — Euronews
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