A two-day extension of a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas offers the chance to free further hostages, a Foreign Office minister has said.
Andrew Mitchell received reports of the deal while answering questions in the House of Commons and having previously insisted that the pause in hostilities “should not be a one-off”.
Addressing the chamber, he said: “There is some suggestion that while I’ve been on my feet in the House, Qatar has announced a truce would be extended by two days.
“Obviously, we all hope that is true and that more hostages, as a result, will be able to leave.”
The Qatari government has said Israel and Hamas agreed to “extend the humanitarian pause” for two more days past Monday.
The announcement came on the final day of the original four-day truce between the warring sides, and raises the prospect of further exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari, in a post on X, formerly Twitter, said: “The State of Qatar announces, as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian pause for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had said the cessation of hostilities delivered “some relief after weeks of pain and suffering”, before insisting “more time is needed if we are to build on this progress”.
He said: “Today’s agreement to extend this cessation of hostilities shows further such extensions are possible.
“Therefore, I call on all parties to build on this progress and work urgently towards a further extension. This would allow the release of further hostages and deliver more humanitarian relief for those in desperate need. And an extension would undoubtedly ease tensions across the region.”
Labour announced that Sir Keir has filled positions left vacant after a host of frontbenchers quit their roles or were sacked after voting in favour of a Gaza ceasefire motion in the Commons earlier this month.
The official party position had been to back humanitarian pauses to allow aid in and for people to leave, without going as far as to demand a total cessation of hostilities.
Alex Davies-Jones has replaced Jess Phillips as shadow minister for domestic violence as part of the changes, with Jim McMahon returning to frontbench duties as a shadow local government minister two months after resigning as shadow environment secretary on health grounds.
Speaking in the Commons about the situation in Israel, Labour MP Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) accused the UK Government of not contacting family members of hostages for “more than a month”.
Ms Creasy said: “This weekend, the immigration minister for this Government, on a public platform, said this Government would not rest until each and every one of the hostages is returned back to the loving embrace of their families.
“It is now more than a month since anybody at all from the UK Government has had any contact at all with the UK citizens who have family members as hostages. Not a single phone call.”
Ms Creasy said she had pleaded with ministers to ensure the families could have “just five minutes” of Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron’s time to discuss their cases.
She added: “It’s been other governments who have helped identify that their family members are alive.”
Mr Mitchell, in his reply, said: “My understanding is not the same as hers in respect of the British hostages.
“She will know over 200 British nationals and their dependants have so far left Gaza and we’re working around the clock to get the rest of those who want to leave out.
“But in terms of the hostages, my understanding is not the same as she has said.”