NATO chief and EU call for extension of temporary ceasefire in Gaza

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and the European Union's high representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, want to extend the temporary ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the meantime, both sides have expressed disappointment over the lists of hostages and prisoners who were due to be released on Monday as part of the humanitarian truce.

Hamas and Israel agreed on a four-day ceasefire to exchange 50 Israeli hostages for 150 Palestinian prisoners. The temporary ceasefire started on Friday morning and will end on Monday evening.

Stoltenberg said he welcomed the fact that the agreement between Hamas and Israel had led to the release of hostages and the delivery of more humanitarian aid.

"I call for an extension of the ceasefire," he said ahead of a member states' foreign ministers meeting in Brussels. "This would allow desperately needed aid to be delivered to the people of Gaza, as well as the release of more hostages." ​ He said the suffering underlined the need for a lasting political solution.

He also noted that NATO member states have a presence in the Middle East. "We have seen drone and missile attacks on US positions in Syria and Iraq, as well as attacks on commercial shipping," he said. "This underlines the risk of escalation." He said Iran must "rein in" its allies in the region.

Iran supports the Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. They have already warned that they will target Israeli ships as long as the war in Gaza continues. A week ago, the rebels hijacked the cargo ship Galaxy Leader with 25 crew members on board.

Call for political solution

Borrell has also called for extending the ceasefire in Gaza. The four-day ceasefire is "an important first step" but "much more is needed to improve the dire situation in Gaza and to find a way out of the crisis," he said on Monday.

"The pause should be extended to make it sustainable and long-lasting while working towards a political solution," he added. This solution must "break the cycle of violence once and for all".

Borrell insisted that a Palestinian state in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank was Israel's best guarantee of long-term security. "Without a Palestinian state, there will be no peace and no security for Israel," he said, condemning the settlement policy in the West Bank.

Lists of hostages and prisoners

Meanwhile, both Israel and Hamas are dissatisfied with the lists of hostages and Palestinian prisoners to be released on Monday, according to several media outlets. An Israeli government spokesperson refused to comment. A Hamas official said the objections would be passed on to Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

This is the fourth group of hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners. So far, 58 Israeli hostages have been freed, while Israel has released 177 Palestinians. According to Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy, 184 hostages remain in Gaza, including 14 foreigners and 80 Israelis with dual nationality.



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