Hours after Hamas and Israel completed the fifth exchange of hostages and prisoners, their fragile truce continued into Wednesday, allowing for more people to be released on both sides, as global leaders called for a longer pause in fighting.
The truce has occasionally been in doubt since it began last Friday, with delicate daily negotiations over the lists of released people on both sides. On Tuesday, each side accused the other of violating the cease-fire but stopped short of pulling out of the agreement, which originally called for Hamas to release 50 Israeli hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinians held by Israel.
On Tuesday, the first day of a two-day extension of the cease-fire, Hamas released more hostages, raising the total to at least 85, according to a New York Times tally. Israel has released 180 Palestinians from its prisons.
Diplomats and intelligence officials were working to negotiate a longer pause. On Tuesday, the top intelligence officials from Egypt, Israel and the United States met with the prime minister of Qatar, the chief mediator between Hamas and Israel. Two people with knowledge of the talks said the hope was that the current model would generate momentum that would prevent the resumption of hostilities and would create the conditions for longer-term talks.
Israel has said that Hamas and other militant groups killed about 1,200 people on Oct. 7 and kidnapped about 240 civilians, both adults and children, and soldiers. Israel has responded with air and land assaults that have killed more than 13,000 people, possibly thousands more, according to the Gazan health authorities.
For weeks, the United States and its allies have been worried that Iran, Hamas’s chief supporter, would push the regional militias it supports in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, to join the war. The success of the cease-fire has temporarily cooled those concerns, and Group of Seven nations, the wealthiest in the world, have ratcheted up pressure on Israel to protect civilians and increase aid, while demanding Hamas release more hostages.
But there are questions around how long the truce can last. It’s unclear whether Hamas has access to all of the hostages or is even aware where the remainder are, John Kirby, a White House spokesman, said on Tuesday. And despite the pause in fighting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said that destroying Hamas remains his nation’s ultimate goal in the war.