Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend a temporary truce for an additional two days as of Nov. 27, according to the government of Qatar, which has presented itself as a mediator in the conflict.
“The State of Qatar announces, as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian pause for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” Majed al-Ansari, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The Qatari official’s announcement was confirmed by White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
President Joe Biden and “his entire national security team” will “obviously stay engaged” to implement the extension of the original Israel–Hamas agreement, “as well as efforts to extend the pause even from there,” Mr. Kirby said at a Nov. 27 news conference.
The extension, according to Mr. Kirby, will “result in the release of 20 more individuals—women and children.”
“We'd certainly like to see that extension extended even further until all the hostages are released,” he told the reporters.
While U.S. officials believe there are eight to nine Americans who remain in the hands of Hamas terrorists, Washington isn’t involved in determining who is released, Mr. Kirby added. He also stressed that the pause on fighting has allowed a “surge of humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” which he said has included more than 2,000 trucks carrying supplies and tens of thousands of gallons of fuel.
When asked whether President Biden is considering putting specific conditions on aid to Israel, Mr. Kirby indicated that it’s unlikely for the Biden administration to shift its current approach.
“The approach that we are taking with Israel—and quite frankly, with our partners in the region—is working,” he said. “It’s getting aid into people that need it. It’s getting a pause in the fighting. It’s getting hostages out—getting Americans out.”
While the Biden administration “welcomes” the additional two-day pause on the Gaza war, Mr. Kirby reiterated that Washington remains opposed to calling for a long-term ceasefire that would likely mean a return to the pre-Oct. 7 status quo.
A full ceasefire in Gaza, Mr. Kirby said, poses a “real risk” that Hamas, “which clearly doesn’t abide by any laws of war, would try to take advantage of any pause in fighting for their own benefit.”
Israel didn’t immediately comment on the extension of the temporary truce. However, the Israeli government has previously expressed willingness to pause its military campaign in Gaza for up to a total of 10 days, if Hamas continues to free the about 240 people it kidnapped since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
The four-day truce, brokered by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar, has brought the first significant pause to the deadly conflict that has dragged into its third month.
As part of the deal, 17 hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip were released on Nov. 26. In exchange, Israel’s prison service said it had begun the process of releasing 39 Palestinian prisoners.
A fourth exchange on Nov. 27—the original expiration date of the temporary pause, during which a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners were to be freed—included 11 Israeli hostages who are on Israeli soil and undergoing initial medical checks before being reunited with their families, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. The group includes nine children and two mothers.
Hamas said it had handed over 13 Israeli hostages, three Thais, and one with Russian citizenship on Nov. 26.
Hamas said it had released the Russian “in response to the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin” and as a show of appreciation for Moscow’s position on the war. The Russian–Israeli citizen was the first male hostage to be freed.
Ahead of the release of hostages, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Gaza Strip to speak with the fighting forces.
“We are making every effort to return our hostages, and at the end of the day, we will return every one,” he told members of the IDF. “We are continuing until the end, until victory. Nothing will stop us.”
Earlier this month, Mr. Netanyahu said that his country is considering to indefinitely assume “overall security responsibility” of the post-war Gaza to ensure its freedom from Hamas terrorism.
Gaza should be governed only by “those who don’t want to continue the way of Hamas,” and such a government won’t be able to stand without the backing of Israeli firepower, he said on Nov. 6 on ABC News.
“I think Israel, for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it,” he told ABC host David Muir in his first interview with a U.S. news network since the Israel–Hamas war broke out.
“When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine.”