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RAMALLAH: Newly released activist Ahed Tamimi is greeted by relatives during a welcome ceremony following the release of Palestinian prisoners from Zionist jails on Nov 30, 2023. – AFP
RAMALLAH: Newly released activist Ahed Tamimi is greeted by relatives during a welcome ceremony following the release of Palestinian prisoners from Zionist jails on Nov 30, 2023. – AFP
More captives freed as Gaza truce extended

GAZA: Hamas released two more Zionist women captives on Thursday with more Palestinian prisoners to be freed under an extended truce that has paused weeks of deadly conflict. With the current truce set to expire early Friday, international bodies have called for a lasting halt to the Zionist violence in the Gaza Strip. The delicate truce held through its seventh day after a 24-hour extension despite a shooting claimed by Hamas militants that killed three people in Jerusalem.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met Zionist and Palestinian leaders to seek a longer pause that would allow further prisoner-captive exchanges and more aid for displaced civilians in Gaza. The Zionist military said on Thursday at least two women captives had been returned from Gaza after being released to the Red Cross by Hamas.

More were expected to be transferred “in the next few hours”, it said. The Zionist entity is due to release more Palestinian prisoners in turn, after the sides agreed to extend the pause in combat operations until Friday morning. Only hours after the truce extension, the Hamas claimed responsibility for a shooting in Jerusalem that killed three people and called for an “escalation of the resistance”.

The morning attack saw two gunmen from annexed east Jerusalem kill three people and wound eight others at a bus stop in the western part of

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the city, before two off-duty soldiers and civilians fired at them and “neutralized” them, police said. Separately, two Zionist soldiers were slightly injured in a ramming attack on a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the army said, adding the assailant had also been “shot and neutralized”.

International bodies have called for more time to allow medical supplies, food and fuel into the besieged Gaza Strip after fierce combat and bombardments. “We have seen over the last week the very positive development of hostages coming home, being reunited with their families,” Blinken said at a meeting with Zionist President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv. “It’s also enabled an increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately. So this process is producing results. It’s important, and we hope that it can continue.”

Blinken later told Netanyahu it was “imperative” to protect civilians in southern Gaza “before any military operations there”. The latest extended truce had been due to end at 0500 GMT Thursday, but the Zionist army said the “operational pause” would continue as international mediators negotiate the release of captives held by Hamas. Qatar, which has led the truce negotiations supported by Egypt and the United States, confirmed the pause had been extended for one day “under the same previous conditions”.

The truce agreement allows for extensions if Hamas can continue to release 10 captives per day, but both sides have warned they are ready to return to fighting. Since the truce began on Nov 24, 70 Zionist captives have been freed in return for 210 Palestinian prisoners, including well-known activist Ahed Tamimi. At least 24 foreigners, most of them Thais living in the Zionist entity, have been freed outside the terms of the deal. The Zionist entity says it sees the truce as a temporary halt intended to free captives, but there are growing calls for a more sustained pause in fighting. Before the truce, Zionist ground and air forces had pounded Gaza, forcing an estimated 1.7 million people — around 80 percent of the Hamas-run territory’s population — to leave their homes and limiting the entry of food, water, medicine and fuel.

Conditions in Gaza remain “catastrophic” and the population faces a “high risk of famine”, according to the World Food Program. The truce has allowed some of the displaced to return to their homes, but for many there is little left. “I discovered that my house had been completely destroyed – 27 years of my life to build it and everything is gone,” said Taghrid Al-Najjar, 46, after returning to her home in southeastern Gaza.

The violence in Gaza has also raised tensions in the West Bank, where nearly 240 Palestinians have been killed by either Zionist soldiers or settlers since Oct 7, according to the Palestinian health ministry. That figure exceeds the entire toll in the Zionist-Palestinian conflict for all of last year when 235 people died, mostly Palestinians, an AFP tally showed. – AFP

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