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GAZA/TEL AVIV: Two Israeli women have been handed to the Red Cross in Gaza City, Israel said on Thursday, and further hostages are expected to be released later in the evening, following a last-minute deal struck by Israel and Hamas.

Israel named the women as 21-year-old Mia Schem, who was seized at a dance party along with many of the other hostages abducted into Gaza, and 40-year-old Amit Sosana. Schem also holds French nationality.

The warring sides agreed to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day, while mediators pressed on with talks to extend the truce further to free more hostages and let aid reach Gaza.

The truce has halted bombing and allowed some humanitarian aid into Gaza after much of the coastal territory of 2.3 million people was reduced to wasteland in an Israeli campaign in retaliation for a deadly rampage by Hamas on Oct. 7.

The armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility for a deadly shooting in Jerusalem, which Israel called further proof of the need to destroy the, although there were no signs of this scuppering the Gaza truce or release of hostages.

Earlier, Israel, which has demanded Hamas release at least 10 hostages per day to hold the ceasefire, said it received a list at the last minute of those who would go free on Thursday, allowing it to call off plans to resume fighting at dawn.

“In light of the mediators’ efforts to continue the process of releasing the hostages and subject to the terms of the framework, the operational pause will continue,” the Israeli military said in a statement, released minutes before the truce was due to expire at 0500 GMT.

Hamas, which freed 16 hostages on Wednesday while Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners, also said the truce would continue for a seventh day.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Israel during his third visit to the Middle East since the war began, said the truce was “producing results. It’s important, and we hope it can continue”.

“We have seen over the last week the very positive development of hostages coming home, being reunited with their families. And that should continue today,” he said. “It’s also enabled an increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately.”

US officials said Blinken also told the Israelis to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians once the war resumes.

Egypt’s state media body said Egyptian and Qatari mediators were working to negotiate a further extension of the truce for two days.

So far have released 97 hostages during the truce: 70 Israeli women, teenagers and children, each freed in return for three Palestinian women and teenage detainees, plus 27 foreign hostages freed under parallel agreements with their governments.

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