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Gaza truce lasts another day, more hostages freed

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GAZA/TEL AVIV: Two women have returned to Israel after being handed to the Red Cross in Gaza City, Israeli authorities said on Thursday, and further hostages are expected to be released later in the evening, following a last-minute deal struck earlier with Hamas.
Israel named the freed hostages as 21-year-old Mia Schem, who was seized at a dance party along with many of the other hostages abducted into Gaza, and 40-year-old Amit Soussana.Schem also holds French nationality.
The warring sides had agreed to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day, while mediators pressed on with talks to extend the truce further to free more hostages and let aid reach Gaza. Minutes before the truce was set to expire on Thursday morning at 7 am local time, Hamas said in a statement that it would last another day. Israel’s military announced the deal on social media around the same time, but did not immediately provide details on a timeline.
Qatar, the chief mediator, said the two sides had agreed to extend the pause for an additional day with the same conditions in effect. International negotiators had worked into the night to lock in an extension. Officials with knowledge of the talks said they also hoped that the succession of short-term pauses would pave the way toward a larger goal: negotiations over a longer-term cease-fire to bring the war to a close. Top officials from Qatar, the US, Egypt and Israel were meeting in Qatar in talks that were focused on extending it to allow for further exchanges. Qatar and Egypt are seeking to prolong the deal by another two days, according to Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service.
With fewer Israeli women and children left in captivity, extending the truce could require setting new terms for the release of Israeli men, including soldiers.
Earlier, Israel, which has demanded Hamas release at least 10 hostages per day to hold the ceasefire, said it received a list at the last minute of those who would go free on Thursday, allowing it to call off plans to resume fighting at dawn. Hamas, which freed 16 hostages on Wednesday while Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners, also said the truce would continue for a seventh day.
Mia Schem had appeared in a hostage video released by Hamas in October which showed her injured arm being treated by an unidentified medical worker. Her father David told Israel’s Channel 12 TV on Thursday that when they meet, he will not say a word to her. “I don’t want to ask her questions, because I don’t know what she endured.”

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