Hamas has announced a delay in the release of a second group of hostages, citing Israel's failure to comply with the terms of the deal and deliver sufficient aid to the besieged enclave. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees reported that 196 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Friday, while Israel confirmed the entry of four fuel trucks and four tanks of gas on Saturday.
Hamas had planned to release more than a dozen hostages on Saturday in exchange for several dozen Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. This exchange is part of a four-day ceasefire that has allowed critical humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and provided a much-needed respite for civilians after seven weeks of war. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the details of the exchange, there is optimism as families are joyously reuniting on both sides.
Earlier in the ceasefire, Hamas released 24 of the approximately 240 hostages taken during their October 7 attack on Israel, while Israel freed 39 Palestinians from prison. On Saturday, Hamas provided Egypt and Qatar with a list of 14 hostages to be released, which has been passed on to Israel. Under the truce agreement, Hamas will release one Israeli hostage for every three prisoners freed by Israel.
There are conflicting reports on the number of hostages to be released and the possibility of extending the ceasefire. Israel has stated that the truce can be extended for every additional 10 hostages freed, while a Palestinian source has suggested that up to 100 hostages could be released. US President Joe Biden expressed hope for an extension of the truce.
Amidst these negotiations, a Qatari delegation has arrived in Israel to coordinate with parties on the ground and ensure the smooth progress of the deal. The pause in hostilities has brought some relief to Palestinians in Gaza, with aid reaching the region and a temporary halt to rocket fire into Israel.
While the delay in the release of hostages is a setback, Egypt has indicated that there are positive signals from all parties regarding a possible extension of the ceasefire. Talks are ongoing to reach an agreement that would lead to the release of more detainees in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel and Hamas have stated that hostilities will resume once the truce ends, but President Biden has expressed optimism about the potential for an extension.