Israel and Hamas reached an agreement to extend the temporary cease-fire in Gaza for a seventh day, the Qatari government announced early Thursday, not long before the previous two-day extension was set to expire. While the truce has held in Gaza, pausing the brutalon Israel, violence in the other Palestinian territory, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and in Jerusalem was keeping tension high on Thursday.
Israeli police said three people were killed in a shooting attack on a crowded Jerusalem bus stop, which a, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, quickly blamed on Hamas.
"These are apparently Hamas operatives, who speak here with two voices — one voice of a so-called cease-fire and a second voice of terror," Gavir told reporters at the scene of the attack, according to BBC News. Police said the two gunmen were killed by Israeli soldiers at the scene.
In statements later Thursday, Hamas and its armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it "a natural response to the unprecedented occupation crimes" of Israel, referring to the paused military operation in Gaza, the killing of two children in the West Bank on Wednesday and what the group called the "widespread violations that our prisoners are exposed to" in Israeli prisons.
Netanyahu, speaking later Thursday after a meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said the attack was carried out by "the same Hamas that perpetrated the terrible massacre on October 7th and the same Hamas that is trying to murder us everywhere."
He said he'd told Blinken that he had "sworn to eliminate Hamas," and "nothing will stop us. We will continue this war until we achieve the three goals: Freeing all of our hostages, completely eliminating Hamas and ensuring that no threat like this will ever come from Gaza again."
Just hours earlier, Majed Al-Ansari, the spokesperson for Qatar's foreign ministry, said in a statement that the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas would continue for at least one more day under the same parameters established last week, which would see Hamas free another group of hostages and Israel release another group of Palestinian prisoners on Thursday. Several hundred more humanitarian aid trucks would also be allowed to enter Gaza during the extended truce.
In a post to social media Thursday morning, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) wrote that, given ongoing mediation efforts towards the potential release of more Hamas-held hostages, the "operational pause" in the fighting in Gaza would continue.
During the cease-fire, Israeli intelligence has received a list every day of the names of the hostages who are expected to be released by Hamas. In a statement early Thursday, Netanyahu's office said it was provided a "list of women and children" in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and therefore the truce will continue."
The short-term cease-fire between the two sides began Nov. 24. It was initially slated for four days, but was extended for another two. That extension had been set to expire at 7 a.m. local time (midnight Eastern) on Thursday before it was extended again for a seventh day.
Frantic talksWednesday involving Qatari, Egyptian and U.S. mediators in an effort to try to extend the pause, with both Israel and Hamas indicating they would be open to another deal.
Under the current arrangement, about three Palestinian prisoners are being released in the West Bank for every one hostage freed. The hostages released so far have only been women and, but it is possible that men could be included in a future deal.
Tension in the West Bank, where the freed prisoners have been welcomed by large crowds cheering their release and, in some cases, waving Hamas flags, has risen this week, meanwhile. Two Palestinian boys, eight and 15 years old, were killed by IDF forces during a raid on West Bank town of Jenin on Wednesday, Palestinian health officials said. Security video showed a small group of boys running, and one falling to the ground, bleeding.
The IDF said troops had opened fire on people throwing explosives at them, but it did not mention the children specifically, who were not seen throwing anything in the surveillance video. The military said troops killed two Islamic Jihad militants during the raid in Jenin.
The temporary cease-fire in the densely-packed Palestinian enclave has enabled the release of dozens of hostages, been widely lauded by the international community, and there was no indication that it would be derailed by the ongoing clashes and violence outside Gaza.
Sixteen hostages, including an American woman,, bringing the total number of Hamas-held hostages released since the cease-fire began to about 100. Some 210 have been released from Israeli prisons in return, including 30 Palestinians on Wednesday, Qatar said.
Netanyahu said on Wednesday that after all the hostages are returned by Hamas, Israel's operations in Gaza would resume.
"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," Netanyahu said in a statement. "There is no situation in which we do not go back to fighting until the end."
More than 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were killed by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel, according to the Israeli military.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says almost 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza by Israel's retaliatory ground incursion and airstrikes
— Haley Ott and Margaret Brennan contributed to this report.
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