A four-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is scheduled to start on Friday morning, according to Qatar. The arrangement is supposed to free scores of hostages held by terrorists and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, but the anguish for those expecting for any respite from it was prolonged by a daylong delay.
The diplomatic move offered some respite to the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who had been subjected to weeks of Israeli shelling. It also gave Israeli families hope that their loved ones who were kidnapped during Hamas’ October 7 raid, which started the conflict, would not perish.
The cease-fire was supposed to start on Thursday morning, but Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s national security advisor, issued a one-day postponement without giving any explanation the night before, thus throwing it off course.
Majed al-Ansari, a spokesperson for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday that the cease-fire would begin on Friday at 7 a.m. local time (5 a.m. GMT).
He said that the first batch of 13 women and children detained by Hamas will be released on Friday afternoon, after the two sides exchanged names of individuals to be released. Although he did not specify the number of Palestinian inmates to be released, authorities have said that three will be released for each hostage.
More help for the Palestinians will begin to reach Gaza “as soon as possible,” according to al-Ansari. He told reporters that the “momentum” from this agreement is expected to bring about a “stop to this violence.”
A Growing Toll in Gaza
On Thursday, Israeli airstrikes continued. A residential building in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza was completely destroyed by a strike in the afternoon. According to representatives at the neighboring Al-Aqsa Hospital, at least 12 people died.
Hosni Moharib, a local, said that although his wife and numerous children perished, other family members were still buried under the debris.
It detonated on the home, hitting the little toddlers and infants. “Everyone in the house is dead,” he said, breaking down in sobs.
Over 13,300 Palestinians have died as a result of the Israeli shelling, which is now in its seventh week, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas. The ministry has restarted its comprehensive tally of Gaza’s wartime deaths. Since November 11, the ministry has not released casualty figures, citing its inability to do so due to the breakdown of the northern health system.
Though the latest figures were not completely broken down, the proportion of women and minors among the deceased has continuously been about two-thirds. The findings do not include the most recent data from northern hospitals. It is estimated by the government that 6,000 individuals are missing and may be buried under debris.
The ministry’s fatality figures do not distinguish between militants and civilians. Israel claims to have killed hundreds of Hamas militants, but it has not provided any supporting documentation.
NETANYAHU: WAR WILL NOT END WITH TRUCE
The ceasefire deal sparked concerns of a larger conflict across the Middle East and increased hopes of finally bringing an end to the war, which has demolished large portions of Gaza and caused a spike in violence in the occupied West Bank.
As Hezbollah claimed to have launched 48 Katyusha rockets from southern Lebanon on Thursday, air raid sirens wailed across northern Israel. Following an Israeli attack that claimed the lives of five Hezbollah members, including the son of the leader of the group’s parliamentary faction, followed the onslaught.
According to the Israeli military, it was hitting the launchers’ supplies. Since the start of the conflict in Gaza, Israel and Hezbollah, who engaged in a month-long conflict in 2006, have often exchanged gunfire across the border.
After the ceasefire ends, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to carry out the war to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities, put an end to the organization’s 16-year control over Gaza, and retrieve all 240 or so prisoners that Hamas and other organizations are thought to have taken.
“We’ll keep going until we reach all of our objectives,” Netanyahu said, noting that he had told US President Joe Biden the same thing over the phone. Since the beginning of the conflict, Israel has received substantial military and political backing from Washington.
Palestinians in Khan Younis, Gaza, greeted the impending cease-fire as a welcome break, but expressed dissatisfaction with the little impact it will have on the humanitarian crisis brought on by the fighting.
Jihan Qanan said, “God willing, it becomes a total cease-fire.” “People have been kicked out of their homes and had houses knocked down on top of them… There are no houses, no finances, and no belongings. The world has collapsed.
THE AREA AROUND JABALIYA
According to Israeli military chief spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, combat activities would continue until the IDF was told to hold fire. During the ceasefire, soldiers would stay in their current locations. A large portion of northern Gaza is under Israeli control, and they claim to have destroyed most of Hamas’ infrastructure and tunnels there.
The Jabaliya refugee camp has been besieged, according to the military, which ordered all inhabitants to leave on Thursday. The military has said that it is hunting for Hamas members in Jabaliya, an inhabited area next to Gaza City that has been under intense bombardment for many weeks.
The military said on Thursday that it had taken Mohammed Abu Selmia, the director of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, into custody to interview him over his alleged participation in “extensive” Hamas operations inside the facility. The Health Ministry in Gaza denounced the detention of Abu Selmia and urged foreign organizations to step in.
Israel had shown a tunnel and several chambers under Shifa that military sources claimed to be a significant Hamas stronghold the day before. Israeli claims that Shifa was turned into a terrorist command center are refuted by Hamas and medical personnel. According to Hagari, Israel has a map of Shifa Hospital and intends to demolish any “terror infrastructure” that it discovers.
150 patients remain in Shifa, according to plastic surgeon Ahmed El-Mokhallalati, who reports that just two physicians, a nurse, and three volunteer staff are available to care for them. El-Mokhallalati said on X, “My colleagues and I are unable to continue providing treatment to patients.”
The majority of Gaza’s population now resides in the southern part of the territory, where Israel has vowed to expand its invasion. With few food, water, and basic supplies, over a million people—including hundreds of thousands of migrants who left the north—have crowded into U.N.-run shelters that are overflowing.
The cease-fire would give Hamas a chance to reorganize after many weeks of what seemed to be significant casualties. If the battle ends, Hamas commander Yehya Sinwar, who is said to be alive and hiding in Gaza, is probably going to hail the liberation of Palestinian captives as a great success.
STAGE-WIDE HOSTAGE REMOVAL
In return for the release of what Hamas said would be 150 Palestinian captives, 50 hostages are expected to be released gradually under the terms of the ceasefire agreement. Israel said that the ceasefire would be prolonged by one day for every ten hostages who were liberated, with women and children being released first.
The release of the captives may cheer Israel, a nation that has been enraged over their predicament. Mass protests have been organized by the captive families to put pressure on the government to free their loved ones. The relatives of the captives scheduled for release on Friday were contacted, according to Netanyahu’s administration.
200 trucks a day, according to Hamas, will bring assistance into Gaza. Qatar said that gasoline would be provided, but it has not specified how much.
At the beginning of the conflict, Israel shut off all imports but for a small amount of food, water, and medical supplies that were permitted in from Egypt. Due to a territory-wide blackout brought on by the scarcity of fuel, houses, hospitals, and other facilities are now dependent on faulty generators.
The list of 300 inmates who may be freed was revealed by Israel’s Justice Ministry. The majority of the inmates were youths who had been arrested over the previous year for petty charges like throwing rocks.
At least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed when thousands of Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel, sparking the start of the conflict. Numerous hostages, including women, children, and elderly people as well as soldiers, were taken prisoner, and Hamas is expected to demand a large number of well-known prisoners in exchange.