Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Agreement: Hostage Releases and Humanitarian Aid
A four-day ceasefire is set to commence on Friday morning between Israel and Hamas, marking a temporary cessation in a conflict that has ravaged Gaza for over seven weeks. This agreement, mediated by international stakeholders including Qatar, the United States, and Egypt, marks a crucial break in hostilities, offering relief to the 2.3 Palestinians in Gaza and families in Israel living in fear due to the ongoing conflict.
Hostages & Prisoners Exchange
Over the course of four days, Hamas will release 50 women and children from about the 240 people taken captive by the group during its assault on southern Israel on October 7. In exchange, Israel will release a total of 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.
“The first group of hostages held by Hamas – 13 women and children – will be freed on Friday afternoon,” announced Majed al-Ansari, spokesperson for the foreign ministry of Qatar. In return, Israel will release 39 Palestinian prisoners as part of the first batch of releases.
None of the Palestinian prisoners being released have been accused of murder and many were held under arbitrary detention without trial.
With the ceasefire, trucks carrying essential humanitarian aid will enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Approximately 200 aid trucks and four fuel trucks will be permitted entry into Gaza daily. This aid is crucial for alleviating the severe humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Palestinian civilians, following weeks of relentless Israeli bombardment and stringent limitations on essential resources such as food, fuel, electricity, and water.
Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, the chief Qatari negotiator, clarified the stipulations regarding armed activities.
“Under the terms of the agreement, there will be absolutely no attack of any kind,” Al-Khulaifi emphasized, assuring total cessation of military movements and expansions during the truce.
This comprehensive pause in hostilities has been confirmed by Hamas, which stated that Israel has consented to suspend all air traffic over northern Gaza each day from 10 am to 4 pm (08:00 to 14:00 GMT) and maintain a complete no-fly zone over southern Gaza for the duration of the truce.
Israel has agreed to refrain from any attacks or arrests within Gaza, allowing unrestricted movement along Salah al-Din Road. This main road has been a critical escape route for many Palestinians fleeing the northern regions.
Hamas also affirmed that its military wing, along with all other Palestinian factions, will halt all forms of military activity as soon as the ceasefire takes effect.
Despite the temporary ceasefire, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant signaled an extended military campaign.
“I estimate that for at least the next month or two there will be intense fighting,” Gallant stated, highlighting the potential continuation of the conflict.
Hamas welcomed the agreement but insisted that was “not the end of the road” for its struggle.
“The only thing that will make the Palestinian nation satisfied is the end of the occupation and the end of the Israeli attack on Gaza,” Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera.
The international community, particularly Israel’s allies, faces a critical juncture. Dominic Waghorn, an international affairs editor, remarked on the grim reality of the situation:
“With the current rate of people dying, that could be up to 30,000, if not more, civilians,” Waghorn said. “You have to wonder whether Britain, America, Europe is going to tolerate anything like that kind of death toll.”
The ceasefire, while offering temporary relief, underscores the region’s ongoing challenges. The recent detention of the director of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City by Israeli forces further complicates the crisis.
The conflict’s impact extends to the West Bank, evidenced by recent incidents of violence, including the shooting of a young Palestinian boy.
Regional Implications and Iran’s Perspective
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian highlighted the critical nature of the ceasefire during his visit to Beirut. He cautioned that without the truce’s endurance, the conflict in Gaza risks escalating into a broader regional war.
“If the ceasefire is short-lived, the war’s scope could widen significantly,” Amir-Abdollahian stated in an interview with Al-Mayadeen television.
Amir-Abdollahian outlined two potential paths: a sustained humanitarian ceasefire leading to a permanent peace, or increased threats to the Palestinian people, which could prompt a decisive response.
During his diplomatic tour, Amir-Abdollahian met with key figures in Lebanon, including senior Lebanese and Palestinian officials. Discussions focused on the ceasefire and strategies to reinforce regional stability and security.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for a comprehensive ceasefire and an end to Israeli aggression in Gaza. He also appealed to influential nations to exert pressure on Israel to cease its operations in southern Lebanon, particularly targeting civilians and journalists.
The conflict escalated after October 7 when thousands of armed Hamas terrorists breaching a border security fence separating Gaza from Israel indiscriminately tortured and gunned down Israeli civilians in their homes, also attacking soldiers, caught off guard, on military bases. Other militants stormed beaches in Israel on motorboats. And some brought death from the sky, paragliding into Israel, to launch a barbaric attack at an open-air music festival.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the IDF began its campaign of retaliation, bombarding Gaza with airstrikes. Israel soon vowed to eradicate Hamas.
The Palestinian death toll from Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip has soared to 14,854, the government media office in the blocked enclave said Thursday, Anadolu Agency reports.
The victims include 6,150 children and over 4,000 women, while more than 36,000 people have been injured. More than 207 doctors, nurses, and paramedics and 65 journalists have been killed.
Around 7,000 people remain unaccounted for, including more than 4,700 children
The Israeli attacks also left 88 mosques destroyed, 174 others partially damaged, while three churches were targeted.
The official Israeli death toll stands at 1,200, according to the Israeli government.