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Israel and Hamas extend temporary truce for another day

Thai nationals gesture from a bus as they leave the Shamir Hospital in Ramle, Israel, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, on their way back to Thailand, after being released from Hamas custody.
Maya Levin
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AP
Thai nationals gesture from a bus as they leave the Shamir Hospital in Ramle, Israel, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, on their way back to Thailand, after being released from Hamas custody.

Updated November 30, 2023 at 12:55 AM ET

TEL AVIV, Israel — The temporary truce in Gaza has been extended again for another day. Israel and Hamas confirmed in statements that the pause in fighting will continue at least through Thursday, while more hostages and prisoners are exchanged. The temporary cease-fire has held for six days.

On the second day of a the previous two-day cease-fire extension, 10 more hostages were freed by Hamas in exchange for 30 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, Qatar's foreign ministry announced. Separately, Hamas released two Russian citizens and four Thai nationals, Qatar said. In total, more than 100 hostages had been released by Wednesday evening, almost all of them over the past six days.

Israeli officials believe Hamas still holds, in Gaza, at least 140 hostages who were captured on Oct. 7. Israel says about 1,200 people were killed when Hamas fighters swept out of the Gaza Strip and struck nearby Israeli communities.

Those released Wednesday included four teenage boys, a 13-year-old girl and five women, according to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

One of the women, Liat Beinin Atzili, 49, is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, the group said. President Biden confirmed that she had been freed and is now in Egypt. Biden said he spoke with Atzili's parents, but he did not answer reporters' questions about the other American hostages in Gaza.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli prime minister's office said the remaining hostages included 10 people over age 75 and four children.

On the question of a longer-term cease-fire, Israel says it intends to continue its military campaign in Gaza.

"In recent days, I have heard a question: After completing this stage of the return of our hostages, will Israel go back to the fighting? My answer is an unequivocal yes," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

Details trickle out about the conditions of Israelis' captivity

The families of Israeli hostages released by Hamas continue to share stories of their relatives' captivity, with some relatives speaking to media outlets. Gideon Heiman says his 84-year-old mother did not receive necessary medical treatment while being held in Gaza.

Israeli doctors also say rescued hostages have returned malnourished. One of the former captives is in stable condition at a hospital, but her family says her neurological condition is still unclear. Devora Cohen says her 12-year-old nephew, Eitan, told her that his captors used guns to threaten crying Israeli children to be quiet.

There were conflicting reports on Wednesday about the fate of one family abducted on Oct. 7 at Nir Oz, a kibbutz near the Gaza border: Yarden and Shiri Bibas, a 4-year-old, Ariel, and their 10-month-old son, Kfir. Videos from Oct. 7 showed the family alive when they were taken into Gaza.

Newly freed Palestinian prisoner Lamees Abu Arqub kisses her father after Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails in exchange for Hamas hostages held in Gaza, in the village of Dura in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.
Hazem Bader / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Newly freed Palestinian prisoner Lamees Abu Arqub kisses her father in the West Bank village of Dura on Tuesday after Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails in exchange for hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas' military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, said Wednesday that the mother and two children were killed in an Israeli airstrike. Hamas did not mention the father.

In a statement Wednesday, Israel said it was "assessing the accuracy" of the claim that the Bibas family members had been killed. Israeli officials had previously said the mother and children were believed to be in the hands of another Palestinian militant group in southern Gaza.

At least two other hostages were falsely reported or believed to be dead before being released alive in hostages-for-prisoners swaps.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel's military also said that two additional hostages had been released without an accompanying prisoner exchange. The release followed a statement from Hamas that the group would release two Israeli-Russian dual citizens at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This week, CIA Director William Burns traveled to the Qatari capital of Doha for meetings with Qatar's prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, and David Barnea, the chief of Israel's spy agency, Mossad, according to a U.S. official who spoke to NPR anonymously due to the sensitive nature of the discussions.

Aid reaching Gaza during pause still insufficient, U.N. says

The pause has allowed the Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescent societies and U.N. agencies "to enhance the delivery of assistance into and across Gaza." The U.N. said a Red Crescent aid convoy carrying food, medical supplies, water and nonfood items reached areas north of an informal dividing line that bisects Gaza.

Israel's military, which has focused its military campaign on the north, has warned Gazans to move south of the line.

In total, 254 truckloads of food, water, baby formula and other aid have been distributed in Gaza since the truce began, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said Wednesday.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that "airstrikes, shelling, and ground clashes have largely ceased" since the temporary truce went into effect on Friday, but it said that "exchange of fire reportedly took place between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in the Beit Hanoun area, in the north, and Israeli forces reportedly used tank fire at open areas in the south."

Even with the aid convoy reaching the embattled north, OCHA emphasized that "the bulk of aid distribution during the day" took place in the south. It also cautioned that the aid reaching Gaza since the pause "is insufficient to meet the extensive needs."

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for "a full humanitarian ceasefire, for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and the wider region."

NPR's Scott Neuman and Daniel Estrin reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. NPR's Becky Sullivan reported from Washington, D.C. contributed to this story

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.

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