The Israel-Hamas truce was extended by two days at the start of this week. The cease-fire was originally planned to expire after Monday, with a fourth exchange of Palestinian prisoners for hostages taken during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Now, Tuesday marks the fifth day of the cease-fire.
Hostage negotiations are still underway, and officials hope to extend the cease-fire for another four days. But violence in the West Bank and demands from Hamas to end Israeli military raids are complicating the situation.
Erin Snider is a scholar of Middle East politics, formerly at Texas A&M, and a fellow with the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. She joined the Standard with more about the temporary cease-fire in Gaza.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:
Texas Standard: What prompted this extension of the cease-fire?
Erin Snider: In a nutshell, essentially both Hamas and the Israelis have been able to strike a deal to exchange more hostages and prisoners. Of course, this comes after weeks of diplomatic discussions – very intense and complicated discussions, mediated by both Qatar and Egypt, to hash out some of the details of these exchanges.
How many hostages have been released so far, and where do the negotiations seem to stand right now when it comes to future exchanges?
Basically, under the Israel-Hamas deal – the first truce that we saw last week – both sides agreed to a four-day truce. Initially, that meant that 50 women, children and teenagers under the age of 19 that had been taken hostage could be freed in return for 150 Palestinian women and teenagers that have been detained by Israel. This deal also included an agreement to allow more emergency aid and fuel into Gaza.
As of Sunday, 40 Israelis – some of them with dual citizenship – have been released, according to numbers that we’ve seen from Israel. There have also been 17 Thai citizens and one Filipino. By most estimates, these seem to be workers that had been based in South Israel when they were seized. Those citizens were freed under a separate agreement.
We have the good news yesterday that Hamas released another group of hostages soon after officials announced an agreement with Israel to extend that short-term cease-fire in the Gaza Strip for another two days. We’re hearing from Israel’s military and security services that there are 11 hostages now back in Israeli territory. Those include three French citizens, two German citizens and six Argentine citizens. In exchange with this latest truce, Israel is releasing 33 Palestinians – 30 minors and three women – from Israeli prisons.
Let’s talk about Qatar’s role and the role of Egypt and the United States. Is the U.S. leading this diplomatic effort?
The U.S. is certainly playing a significant role. But it’s also important not to underestimate the significance of Qatar’s role as well. Mediation in general has been a long pillar of Qatar’s foreign policy in the region. It’s been a key mediator, along with Egypt, in this conflict. And of course, the United States.
Given Qatar’s ties with parties in this conflict, its diplomacy has been seen as essential. In the past, it’s been seen as a key intermediary between parties that don’t necessarily talk, especially with states that refuse to deal directly with Hamas.
It’s an important U.S. ally as well. It hosts an American military base that’s key to U.S. operations in the region. Qatar also has ties to Islamist groups like Hamas, who have a political office based in the capital of Doha. This role as mediator is one that Qatar has pretty much actively and strategically cultivated over the last decade or so.
Just as an example, it played a significant role in mediating the last war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. Beyond Hamas, it also served as an intermediary between the U.S. and the Taliban before those two ultimately negotiated a peace deal.
How tenuous do you see this cease-fire at this moment?
It seems to be quite tenuous. I think that it’s been quite a surprise to see this extended as it has been over the last few days. But the reporting and what I’ve seen by various sources that I trust, I think is hopeful. But again, the situation is still quite delicate that it remains to be seen.