Israel believes Hamas has enough women and children hostages to allow the current pause in fighting in Gaza to be extended by another two to three days, an official involved in the negotiating process said on Wednesday.
“We know for a fact that there are additional hostages in the hands of Hamas for at least two more days, potentially three days from the list of women and children,” said the official, who spoke on condition that he not be named.
“Any additional agreement would be conditional on first of all releasing these remaining women and children and only then could we negotiate follow-on agreements,” he said.
The official made the remark on the last day of a two-day extension to the original pause in fighting agreed to allow hostages held by Hamas to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
“We are of course fully prepared to resume fighting but our preference would be to continue,” the official said.
On Wednesday, he said Hamas was expected to release 10 Israeli hostages and another two hostages with joint Israeli and Russian citizenship who were being freed under a separate agreement between the militant movement and Russia.
Negotiators seeking to prolong the six-day truce in Gaza believe it can be extended for another two days, two Egyptian security sources also said on Wednesday.
The number of civilian hostages held by Hamas who would be released under the extension was still being worked out, the sources said.
Negotiations for the release of civilian hostages were going well, but military hostages held by Hamas presented an obstacle, the Egyptian sources added.