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Israel and Hamas strike deal to extend the temporary cease-fire in Gaza


President Biden says Israel and Hamas have extended their cease-fire in Gaza by another two days, paving the way for more exchanges of hostages and prisoners.


Since the cease-fire began, at least 50 Israelis taken by Hamas on October 7 have been returned to Israel. Nineteen foreign hostages, mostly from Thailand, have also been released, and 150 Palestinian prisoners have been released by Israel and allowed to return to their homes.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Israelis and Palestinians are waiting to see how much longer the cease-fire will last and how many more hostages and prisoners will go home. Joining us now with more is NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv.

Daniel, the cease-fire has been extended by another two days. How many more people might be freed?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Well, Israel's offer is, for every 10 Israelis released, Israel will release 30 Palestinians and extend the cease-fire another day. So over the next two days, we're expecting 20 Israelis and 60 Palestinians to be freed. And we're going to have to see if more foreign nationals, like Thai guest workers, are released as well in separate deals.

MARTÍNEZ: Any chance that this cease-fire could be extended even longer - past just today and tomorrow?

ESTRIN: There is a chance. I mean, Israel has capped this cease-fire at 10 days max, and we are on Day 5. But if Hamas does keep offering up more hostages to be released, we'll have to see if Israel does consider extending the cease-fire. Israel says it's willing to release one very prominent Palestinian detainee, Ahed Tamimi. She is an icon for Palestinian defiance against Israel, as Palestinians see her. A few years ago, she was a teen. She was imprisoned for slapping Israeli soldiers. And a few weeks ago, she was detained by Israel on suspicion of incitement and support of terror, according to Israel, apparently for hate speech on social media, which her family denies.

So we are also hearing, in Israel, a lot of worry about this whole process. You know, the longer the war is delayed to release hostages and to exchange them for prisoners in Israel, will it be hard to resume Israel's military assault against Hamas - to try to eradicate Hamas in Gaza? It's an incredibly emotional time for Israelis seeing this whole process. For example, yesterday, mothers and children were released, but their fathers are still being held in Gaza, and there's no prospect yet for releasing them. And there's also a lot of anger boiling over in Israel over multiple media reports alleging that Israeli leaders ignored intelligence warnings about the Hamas attack on October 7.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, Israel has said from the beginning, Daniel, that they are committed to crushing Hamas and ending its rule in Gaza. So thinking about a cease-fire - it kind of doesn't square that a cease-fire could continue if they plan to stick to that.

All right. But each day the cease-fire is extended means one more day without war, and that's got to be a huge relief to the Gazans, who have suffered immense losses for seven weeks straight. Daniel, what are you hearing from them?

ESTRIN: Well, people in Gaza are telling us that, you know, they're seeing hundreds of aid trucks coming into Gaza now for the United Nations to distribute, but they, personally, are not feeling the impact yet in their own lives. Our producer there, Anas Baba, has observed long lines of people trying to fill up cooking gas. There's not enough to go around and really to supply people's basic needs - food, bread, water. Nearly 80% of the population in Gaza is displaced from their homes, according to the U.N., and they're saying that diseases are spreading in shelters. So the Biden administration is calling on Israel to allow increased humanitarian aid to Gaza. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is coming to the region to push that and also to bring up the elephant in the room - what's going to be the future of Gaza the day after the war?

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.