Israel-Hamas ceasefire comes into effect
Israeli forces and Hamas militants have agreed to temporarily cease hostilities in Gaza, starting at 7am local time on Friday morning. Hundreds of aid trucks are ready to pour into the war-torn Palestinian enclave, while Hamas is expected to release the first group of hostages later in the day.
There has been no official confirmation from either the IDF or Hamas that the fighting has come to a halt. However, an Al Jazeera correspondent in southern Gaza claimed that the truce has already started and that attacks have ceased. “We are witnessing a relative calm, that is gradually becoming more and more visible as there is a complete stop of fighter jets flying over the Gaza Strip,” he said.
According to Israeli media reports, rocket alarms were activated in the Israeli communities of Kissufim and Ein Hashlosha near the border with Gaza 15 minutes after the ceasefire was supposed to kick in.
The Israeli military has dropped flyers warning residents of Gaza against returning to their homes in the north amid the ceasefire. The IDF’s Arabic media spokesman Avichay Adraee has also addressed Palestinians on social media, saying that despite the truce, “the war is not over yet. The humanitarian pause is temporary. The northern Gaza Strip is a dangerous war zone and it is forbidden to move north.”
Under the deal, Israel has pledged to halt air raids on southern Gaza and cease sorties in the northern part of the enclave for six hours every day, according to the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, which helped to broker the agreement.
Hamas is expected to release the first group of 13 Israeli women and children at around 4pm local time, and will use the pause in fighting to locate more hostages allegedly held by other factions. Some of the Palestinian prisoners are also meant to be set free by Israel by the end of the day.
Some 200 trucks of food and other vital aid, including limited amounts of fuel, would enter Gaza during every day of the ceasefire, according to Egyptian officials. However, the Israeli military said that the “uncoordinated movement of trucks from the south of the Strip to the north will not be permitted.”
While agreeing to the truce, the Israeli government has vowed to “continue the war in order to return home all of the hostages, complete the elimination of Hamas and ensure that there will be no new threat to the State of Israel from Gaza.”
Gaza residents will not be allowed to return to their homes in the north during the ceasefire, but will be free to “safely” flee south, the IDF added. Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee also said that Israeli troops will remain in Gaza, stationed in “sparsely populated areas.”
Hamas also said it was ready to resume the battle. “While we announce the arrival of a pause of fighting agreement, we affirm that our hands will remain on the trigger, and our victorious brigades will remain on the lookout to defend our people and defeat the occupation and its aggression,” the group said in a statement on Thursday night.
Over the course of a four-day ceasefire, Israel and Hamas hope to exchange 50 Israeli women and children for 150 Palestinian civilians held in Israeli jails. Officials expressed hope that the truce would be further extended one more day for every ten additional captives freed.
In total, more than 200 people, including foreign nationals, were taken hostage by Hamas during the militants’ October 7 attack on Israel, which left some 1,200 people dead.
Israel has launched weeks of airstrikes on Gaza and escalated a ground raid into the territory, killing nearly 15,000 Palestinians, including over 6,000 children, according to health officials in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave.