Combat between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters halted on Friday for the first time in seven weeks in a temporary truce ahead of the planned release of Israeli hostages held by the terrorists in exchange for jailed Palestinians.
No big bombings, artillery strikes, or rocket attacks were reported, although Hamas and Israel both accused each other of sporadic shootings and other violations. Both said the war would resume on full throttle as soon as the truce was over.
Above northern Gaza’s combat zone, viewed from across the fence in Israel, there was no sign of the warplanes that have thundered through the sky for weeks, explosions on the ground, or the contrails of Hamas rocket fire. Just one plume of smoke was visible in the early afternoon.
Columns of Israeli tanks rolled away from the Gaza Strip’s northern end, while aid trucks entered from Egypt at the southern end.
The four-day ceasefire, which began at 7 am (0500 GMT), involves the release of 50 women and children hostages held by Hamas terrorists, in return for 150 Palestinian woman and teenagers held in Israeli jails. The first 13 hostages and 39 Palestinians were due to be freed later on Friday.
Israel says it could be extended beyond four days if more hostages are freed at a rate of at least 10 per day, and a Palestinian source has said up to 100 could ultimately go free.
Additional aid is to flow into Gaza, which has been under weeks of Israeli bombardment.
Hamas confirmed that all hostilities from its forces would cease. But Abu Ubaida, spokesperson for Hamas’ armed wing, later stressed that this was a “temporary truce.”
In a video message, he called for an “escalation of the confrontation … on all resistance fronts,” including the West Bank.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed a similar return to fighting: “This will be a short pause, at the conclusion of which the war [and] fighting will continue with great might and will generate pressure for the return of more hostages.”
Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, after Hamas terrorists burst across the border fence into southern Israel on Oct. 7, murdering 1,200 people and seizing about 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, Israel has waged air strikes and ground operations, with the stated goal of destroying the Palestinian terrorist group. According to Hamas-controlled health authorities in Gaza, thousands of Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli military campaign.
Israel has told displaced Gazans not to attempt to return to the northern part of Gaza, the focus of its ground campaign since the start of this month.
Gaza residents said the Israelis had dropped leaflets warning people not to travel north and have fired over the heads of some people who were trying to get back into Gaza City.
Sirens sounded in two southern Israeli villages warning of possible incoming Palestinian rockets. An Israeli government spokesman said Hamas had fired rockets in violation of the truce but there were no reports of damage.
Fighting had raged in the hours leading up to the truce, with officials inside the enclave saying a hospital in Gaza City was among the targets bombed. According to the Israeli military, Hamas has used hospitals in Gaza to house their command centers and weaponry. The European Union has lambasted the terror group for using hospitals as “human shields.”
The temporary truce came about amid international concern over the fate of the hostages and the plight of Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza. Israel has rejected calls for a full ceasefire, arguing it would benefit Hamas, a position backed by the United States.
The 13 first hostages were expected to be released around 1400 GMT to the Red Cross and an Egyptian security delegation, then brought out through Egypt for transfer to Israel, Egyptian security sources said. In exchange Israel will release 24 women and 15 teenagers in the West Bank, Palestinian officials said.
The head of the Palestinian Authority’s prisoners’ commission, Qadura Fares, said that as soon as Israel received the hostages at the Rafah crossing, Israel‘s prisons’ authority would move the Palestinian prisoners to the Red Cross.
Under the agreement, desperately-needed aid began to be delivered to Gaza. By mid-morning, 60 trucks carrying aid had crossed from Egypt at the Rafah border point, according to Gaza border authorities.
Two of the first trucks to enter sported banners that said, “Together for Humanity.” Another said: “For our brothers in Gaza.”
Egypt has said 130,000 liters of diesel and four trucks of gas will be delivered daily to Gaza and that 200 trucks of aid would enter Gaza daily.
A Palestinian official familiar with the truce talks told Reuters that only three trucks of aid out of 100 trucks had reached the northern Gaza Strip so far.
“This is grave foot-dragging,” the official said.
The post Ceasefire Takes Hold in Gaza Ahead of Hostage Release, Aid Enters Enclave first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
‘The mobs will not silence my voice’ says Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman after her Thornhill office is plastered with anti-Israel posters
Posters slamming Israel and decrying Canada’s suspension of funding to UNRWA were found at the Thornhill, Ont., offices of Melissa Lantsman, a pro-Israel and Jewish Conservative MP who serves as deputy leader of the Official Opposition. “Blood on Your Hands,” “Stop Arming Israel” and “Fund UNRWA Now” were among the messages found taped to […]
IDF Chief Weighs in on Ultra-Orthodox Military Service, Week After New Draft Bill Proposed
IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi called on the ultra-Orthodox public to mobilize for the current and future wars, a position at odds with their historic role in the state, in which they enjoy near blanket exemptions from military service.
“In these challenging days, there is one thing that is very clear: Everyone should mobilize for the defense of the homeland,” Halevi said.
He added: “This is a different era, and what was before it will certainly be re-examined. The IDF has always sought to bring into its ranks from all sections of Israeli society. This war illustrates the need to change. Join the service, protect the homeland. We have a historic opportunity to expand the sources of recruitment for the IDF at a time when the necessity is very high. We will know how to create the right solutions and conditions for any population that will join this noble mission.”
The issue of ultra-Orthodox enlistment in the IDF has been a hot button issue since the state’s establishment in 1948 and, in more recent years, the cause of wide scale backlash against the community. As part of an agreement when the state was founded, the ultra-Orthodox public was exempted completely from service. However, as the years progressed and the population grew exponentially, critics of the policy decried the unfairness of it.
A bill last week was introduced by the ruling Likud Party that called for an increase in military service time, particularly for reserve forces, yet failed to discuss the ultra-Orthodox issue. Backlash from both opposition and coalition members was swift.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich at the time said, “The ultra-Orthodox public is dear and loved and contributes a lot to the State of Israel, and it is now essential that it also take a more significant part in the tasks of defense and security. This move should happen out of dialogue and discussion and not by coercion or, God forbid, by defamation. Religious Zionism proves that it is possible to combine Torah study and observance of minor and severe mitzvot together with military service at the front. My ultra-Orthodox brothers, we need you!”
Halevi’s comments were his first on the highly contentious issue.
The post IDF Chief Weighs in on Ultra-Orthodox Military Service, Week After New Draft Bill Proposed first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
Israeli victims of the Oct. 7 attacks present their case to the International Criminal Court, hoping for arrest warrants against Hamas
A legal brief documenting the kidnapping, rape, torture and executions of Israelis who are being held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza has been filed at the International Criminal Court by the Canadian-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. The 1,000-page dossier documents the brutality of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, which killed […]