1 of 4 | Boys and girls hold Israeli flags as they gather outside the Schneider Children's Medical Center waiting for released hostages to arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Sunday. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE
Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Eleven more Israeli hostages were released by their Hamas captors on Monday as Qatar announced that a truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended for an additional two days.
The Israeli hostages, which included nine children and two mothers, were released to the Red Cross, the Israeli Defense Forces announced.
The miliary and Shin Bet intelligence personnel were accompanying the released hostages inside Israeli territory, the IDF said, adding that after they undergo an initial medical assessment, the 11 will be reunited with their families.
"The IDF, together with the entire Israeli security establishment, will continue operating until all the hostages are returned home," the military said.
"We have now successfully facilitated the release and transfer of 11 hostages held in Gaza," the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed in a post on X. "The ICRC was not involved in the negotiations, and its role has been to facilitate the agreement as a neutral intermediary."
The latest releases marked the fourth and final phase of a deal between Israel and Hamas to release 50 captives in return for a four-day pause in the Gaza war. Hamas has another 20 to 40 Israeli hostages it could release in the coming days.
"We are continuing with the outline that has been agreed to and we are also continuing with our main goal: To bring about the release of our hostages, to complete the elimination of Hamas and -- of course -- to ensure that this threat will not recur in Gaza," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of a budget meeting Monday evening,
"What has been will not be -- neither will there be a regime that encourages terrorism, educates for terrorism and pays for terrorism," he said.
Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari announced earlier Monday that the cease-fire has been extended for another two days, potentially prolonging the temporary cease-fire through Saturday morning under the terms of the agreement.
The deal, brokered by Qatar calls for extending the truce by one day for every 10 additional hostages released by Hamas, limited to 10 days in total.
Hamas had said in a statement late Sunday that it was hoping an extension would be possible with the aim of increasing the number of Palestinian prisoners freed from the 117 Israel has handed back thus far.
The announcement appeared to be the group's first formal expression of a wish to keep the truce going beyond its official expiration at 7 a.m. local time Tuesday.
U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement Monday he has been "deeply engaged over the last few days to ensure that this deal -- brokered and sustained through extensive U.S. mediation and diplomacy-- can continue to deliver results.
"Thus far, more than 50 hostages have now been released and returned to their families. Those released include young children, mothers, and grandmothers."
Netanyahu, on a visit to Gaza on Sunday to meet with Israel Defense Forces -- the first trip inside the occupied territory by an Israeli leader since 2005 -- signaled that an extension was a possibility if Hamas continued to free hostages.
But he also talked tough, pledging that the war was not over until Hamas had been destroyed.
"We are continuing until the end, until victory. Nothing will stop us," said Netanyahu, adding that he had Biden in a phone call that the military offensive in Gaza would resume with full force once any extension came to an end.
Biden pledged his administration would do everything it could to see the truce extended so that more hostages could be freed and more badly needed humanitarian aid could be brought into Gaza for civilians.
He said he would remain personally engaged with Netanyahu to ensure the truce agreement was implemented in full, as well as working to get it extended.
Biden stressed that the deal was "structured so that it can be extended to keep building on these results.
"That's our goal: to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow."
Expectations were qualified by U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan who said on U.S. television Sunday that while the pause in the fighting could be extended one, two, three or "even more" days, it was up to Hamas.
"If the pause stops, the responsibility for that rests on the shoulders of Hamas, not on the shoulders of Israel," said Sullivan who acknowledged the halt in the fighting had given Hamas the opportunity to refit and retool and exploit its achievements on social media.
Qatari officials had also sought to temper expectations of a longer pause, warning that because hostages had been abducted by a number of different groups, Hamas did not know where they all were, making the task of finding the dozens needed for the extension problematic.
Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said it was understood at least 40 of the women and children held in Gaza were being held by groups other than Hamas.
"If they get additional women and children, there will be an extension. We don't yet have any clear information how many they can find because one of the purposes [of the pause] is they will have time to search for the rest of the missing people."