The IDF spokesman announced Thursday morning at 6:42 a.m. that "in light of the efforts of the mediators to continue the process of releasing the hostages, and subject to the terms of the agreement, the cease-fire will continue."
The announcement came about 18 minutes before the deadline, after Israel had threatened throughout the night that the cease-fire would end on Thursday morning and the war would resume. The impasse was actually resolved only when Israel agreed to accept only eight women and children instead of the originally agreed-upon 10, after Hamas on Wednesday released two Israeli women with Russian citizenship, claiming it was a "tribute" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Minutes before submitting the revised list, Hamas also claimed that Israel refused to accept seven women and children, in addition to the bodies of three other hostages who the terrorist organization claims were killed by Israeli bombings, in exchange for extending the cease-fire, claiming they were the only hostages they had in the category specified in the agreement.
Behind the scenes, according to an Israeli official, the negotiations were "very difficult and nerve-wracking."
"There was a fight for every name. We are entering very difficult times. Hamas will try to manipulate, intimidate and spread disinformation. We were one step away from canceling the deal, he said."
Israel confirmed overnight that they received a list of hostages that Hamas was ready to release as part of another day of a truce, but said that the names on it are unacceptable because it did not meet the demand in the agreement to release the remaining women and children who are still being held captive; it is believed that four more children and at least 10 women have not yet been released.
Israel told Qatari negotiators that if the list did not change by 7 a.m. it would resume its ground war in Gaza.
At the same time, the military wing of Hamas informed its people in the Gaza Strip early in the morning to be ready to resume fighting with Israel if the cease-fire was not renewed.
The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades told its active forces "to maintain a high combat readiness during the last hours of the truce," the terrorist organization said, adding: "The fighters will be in such readiness unless an official announcement is issued confirming the extension of the truce."
Qatar pressured Hamas to "improve" the list, in a way that would meet the criteria of the deal. At the same time, the limited war cabinet met until 1:30 a.m. in the Kirya defense headquarters in Tel Aviv. So far 73 Israelis have been released, and according to various reports, there is talk of an effort to extend the cease-fire by two days in a way that would have allowed the release of another 20 hostages.
In the end, about 20 minutes before the deadline, Hamas delivered a new list that met the criteria - so the moratorium will continue.
According to the Prime Minister's Office, the new list includes 8 women and children. However, at this stage, the talk is only about an extension of only one additional day - so it is possible that again tonight there will be nerve-wracking talks until the last moment
On Wednesday night Hamas released 10 Israeli hostages - five women and five girls - after 54 days in captivity. Hamas also released, not as part of the deal, and as a tribute to Russia President Vladimir Putin, two Israeli women with Russian citizenship. Four Thai nationals were also released.
Israel had on Wednesday already signaled the possibility of a resumption of fighting in the shadow of the talks on extending the deal, and a security source said that if another list was not forwarded, the fire would be renewed in the Gaza Strip. In Israel, they emphasize that "on the day when hostages are not returned - there will be fire."
The security source indicated that in Israel they will also agree to accept the release of adult men, for the same "price" stipulated in the original deal - three security prisoners of the same category for each kidnapped Israeli, if Hamas cannot include 10 women and children in the coming lists. Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan also signaled Wednesday night that the terrorist organization would agree to a deal that would include older men - but did not say at what price.
The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has already been extended two days beyond its original four days. Israel has constantly emphasized that when the return of hostages is exhausted, the fighting will resume - both to topple the Hamas regime and to put military pressure on the terrorist group and make it agree to more hostage deals. On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the issue: "We achieved a very great achievement - the return of many dozens of our hostages. A week ago it would have sounded imaginary, but we achieved it. But in the last few days I hear a question - after the completion of this phase of the return of our hostages, will Israel return to fighting? My answer is an unequivocal yes."
Netanyahu emphasized that this is not only his position, but the position of the entire Cabinet. "There is no way we will not return to fighting until the end. This is my policy, the entire cabinet stands behind it, the entire government stands behind it, the soldiers stand behind it, the people stand behind it - that is exactly what we will do." Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also said Wednesday night: "If anyone has any doubts - very soon we will continue the ground operation all over Gaza."
IDF spokesman Brigadier General Daniel Hagari emphasized last night in his daily statement that the forces in the field are prepared to resume fighting if the cease-fire ends, and said that they are ready to do so "already now." Hagari noted that terrorists again violated the agreement on Tuesday and opened fire on IDF forces, who were not harmed and killed three of the terrorists.
The United States is also involved in the talks, and are exerting pressure to extend the cease-fire. At the same time, Washington also recognizes that it will not be possible to extend it for a long time. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken landed in Israel Wednesday night, on his fourth visit to the country since the beginning of the war. In the discussions that will take place, he will press for the release of as many hostages as possible - but will focus more on how the renewed fighting in Gaza will look. In recent days, the Americans have already demanded from Israel that, with the resumption of fighting, the mass displacement of residents in the south of the Strip, as was the case in the north, will be avoided.