As Qatar works towards a longstanding truce, the CIA’s director is reportedly in Doha in a push for further captives’ releases from Gaza.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Majed Al Ansari said the Gulf state hopes it can “reach a sustainable truce” on Tuesday during a press conference, after announcing a two-day extension of the humanitarian truce deal Qatar and Egypt mediated in Gaza that was in its final hours.
“Our main focus right now is, and our hope is, to reach a sustainable truce that would lead to further negotiations and eventually to an end to this iteration of violence, to this war,” Al Ansari told a weekly press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Doha.
Speaking to the press in the Qatari capital, Al Ansari reiterated the Gulf state’s calls for international action to ensure that a lasting truce is reached in Gaza.
“We are working with what we have and what we have right now is a provision to the agreement that allows us to extend days as long as Hamas is able to guarantee the release of at least 10 hostages from their side,” Al Ansari said.
The original humanitarian pause was due to expire on Tuesday morning.
The Qatar and Egypt-mediated truce initially came into effect on Friday 7:00 AM Gaza local time on November 24, and stipulated the release of more than 50 Israeli and foreign captives from Hamas in Gaza in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
The deal also entailed the entry of additional aid trucks into Gaza, including much-needed fuel shipments.
By Monday, the fourth day of the truce, Hamas released 69 captives from Gaza whereas Israel released 150 women and children from its prisons.
The extension on Tuesday came following Qatar’s extensive discussions with the relevant parties, including Egypt and the United States, the Gulf state’s foreign ministry said. The extension aimed at enabling the entry of additional aid and paving the way for the release of more captives from Hamas in Gaza.
The fifth day of the truce led to the release of additional 12 captives from Hamas, including 10 Israelis, Al Ansari said in a post on X on Tuesday. The latest captives’ batch also included one Filipina citizen, two nationals Argentina and two Thai citizens, Al Ansari added.
In turn, Israel released 30 Palestinians on the same day, of which 15 were women and 15 were children.
The minors included 14-year-old Ahmad Al-Salaymeh, who is the youngest teenager in Israeli jails, Palestine’s news agency (Wafa) reported. Al-Salaymeh told the press in Ramallah upon his release that he was subjected to abuse by the occupation’s police and was barely allowed to leave his prison cell during his daily break.
“The first day of the war there were a number of beatings, female inmates were beaten,” Salaymeh told Al Jazeera. Salaymeh added that he was told not to hold any form of celebrations on the day of his release.
Hours before the first batch of Palestinians were released on Friday, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir instructed the occupation forces to crack down on all celebrations.
Israeli police forces have constantly surrounded the ex-prisoners’ houses to ensure that no media covered the moments of their reunification with their families.
Local sources have also told Wafa that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) raided the homes of the freed detainees across the towns of Silwan, Al-Issawiya, and At-Tur in East Jerusalem.
Potential truce extension
Talks in Qatar have been racing against time in an effort to further extend the truce in Gaza. CIA Director, William Burns, arrived in Doha on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post, for “secret meetings” with that same goal.
Citing an anonymous source privy to the matter, the Wall Street Journal said Burns visited Doha to meet Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani to hold further discussions on “a potential longer-term cease-fire deal.”
The source added that Egyptian officials were also in attendance at the meeting.
A source separately told CNN on Wednesday that the negotiators believe a further two-day extension of the truce could result in the release of more women and children from Hamas as well as the release of men and soldiers.
Burns had previously travelled to Doha on November 9, when he reportedly met with Qatar’s prime minister, Reuters reported.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s senior Middle East adviser Brett McGurk then visited Qatar on November 18 in a push for the release of further captives held by Hamas.
During the October 7 attack, the Al-Qassam Brigades—Hamas’ armed wing—infiltrated occupied territories through air, land and sea while returning to Gaza with at least 240 captives.
Israel has since used the operation as the pretext for the genocide in Gaza.
Israeli occupation forces have killed at least 20,031 Palestinians, including 8,176 children, since the start of the genocide on Gaza, according to figures by Euro-Med.
The figures by the NGO are being widely cited as Gaza’s collapsed health sector stopped keeping track of the total toll after the ground invasion of Al-Shifa Hospital on November 18.
Despite the current truce, IOF boats fired a number of missiles at the coast of Khan Yunis, Al-Shati, and Sheikh Radwan in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning without reporting casualties, Wafa said.
Israel raids Jenin
On the same day of the Palestinian prisoners’ release on November 28, the Israeli occupation forces detained 16-year-old Palestinian Lara Yasser Fo’ad Zbaidi in Ramallah, Wafa reported.
The detainment of Zbaidi came under the Israeli mass arrest campaign across the West Bank, which have spiked since the beginning of the Israeli genocide in Gaza on October 7.
Israel arrested at least 3,260 Palestinians in the West Bank, per figures published by Wafa on November 27.
There are 2,070 Palestinian administrative detainees and 200 child prisoners behind Israeli bars, according to Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
Israel also raided the occupied West Bank city of Jenin and its camp on Tuesday night and declared the areas as a closed military zone, according to Wafa.
Security and local sources on the ground told the Palestinian news agency that the IOF bombed several houses in the area while bulldozing the city’s infrastructure including electricity and water networks.