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US, Israeli officials say 'ball is in Hamas' court' on potential extension of truce

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Officials from the United States and Israel said Sunday that the “ball is in Hamas’ court” on whether the four-day truce to release hostages will be extended. 

A third wave of hostages was released from militant group Hamas’ custody on Sunday amid a four-day truce struck between Israel and the militant group. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that it’s up to Hamas and whether the group releases more hostages if the truce is to be extended.

“Well, first, Dana, just to be clear about the terms of this deal, Israel has already agreed that it will continue to pause fighting day by day after the end of the four days, as long as Hamas keeps releasing hostages,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union. 

“So, the ball is really in Hamas’ court,” he continued. “If Hamas wants to see an extension of the pause in fighting, it can continue to release hostages. If it chooses not to release hostages, then the end of the pause is its responsibility, not Israel’s, because it is holding these hostages completely illegitimately and against all bounds of human decency or the laws of war.”

Seventeen hostages, including one American citizen, were released from Hamas’ control on Sunday. This comes after 24 hostages were freed on Friday in the first wave and 17 were released on Saturday.

In exchange for the freedom of hostages, Israel agreed to release about 150 Palestinian prisoners — women and teenagers — from prisons in the West Bank. 

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog also said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the truce could be extended on a day-to-day basis if Hamas continues to release hostages. 

“It could be extended day by day. We – the deal was 50 hostages, four days of pause. And for each and every — if they produce 10 hostages, they get another day of pause. So that’s the key. That’s the deal. And we will see tomorrow if they are willing to release additional hostages,” Herzog said. 

He also reiterated Sullivan’s point that it is up to Hamas on whether the pause in fighting will continue, noting that military operations will resume if Hamas does not release more hostages. 

“The answer is, yes, the military operation will resume, not before we ascertain that we released as many hostages as we can,” Herzog said. “The court — the ball is in Hamas’ court, as Jake told you. But once we reach the conclusion that they are unwilling to release more hostages, we will resume our operations in Gaza.”


Source: The Hill

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