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Far-right ministers in Israel piled pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu to spurn a broader hostage-for-prisoner release deal with Hamas, even as the Palestinian militant group released another 16 people and talks continued over extending the temporary truce.
Two members of the Israeli prime minister’s cabinet ramped up attacks on the ceasefire, warning that his coalition government was under threat if he pursued a more ambitious swap with Hamas.
The threats came as Hamas on Wednesday released more hostages held in Gaza. These consisted of 10 Israeli women and children, two Israeli-Russian dual-nationals and four Thai citizens, according to Qatar’s foreign ministry. In return, Israel will free a further 30 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
Mediators in Qatar were also on Wednesday working to extend the existing truce — due to expire on Thursday morning — by 48 hours. But claims from Hamas that the youngest hostage, a 10-month-old baby, and two other members of his family had been killed in captivity cast a shadow over the discussions.
The current truce agreement, which took effect last Friday, has the potential to be extended to 10 days. But there have also been discussions about a broader deal that would probably require Israel to commit to a more lasting halt to its offensive and to release large numbers of Palestinian prisoners, including those convicted of murder.
In return, Hamas and other militant groups would release more hostages from Gaza, potentially including the dozens of Israeli soldiers being held in the strip.
But Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel would resume its military campaign “after completing this stage of the return of our hostages”, adding: “There is no situation in which we do not go back to fighting until the end.”
Netanyahu faces domestic and international pressure, particularly from…
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