A four-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas began on Friday, signaling a temporary halt to the conflict and allowing for the provision of much-needed aid to the people of Gaza. Additionally, negotiations for the release of hostages held by militants and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel are now underway.
The initial exchange will involve the release of 39 Palestinian prisoners for 13 Israeli hostages. The 39 prisoners include women convicted for attempted murder and teenagers imprisoned for stone-throwing offenses. This exchange is seen as a first step towards resolving the wider conflict and restoring peace in the region.
The cease-fire brings some respite after weeks of Israeli bombardment and ground fighting in Gaza. Israeli towns near the border have also experienced multiple air raid sirens during this period. The truce allows for the entry of essential supplies, including fuel and cooking gas, into Gaza from Egypt.
Israel has permitted the delivery of a limited amount of fuel during the cease-fire period, ensuring the operation of critical infrastructure such as water treatment facilities and hospitals. The claim that fuel could be used by Hamas for military purposes has been refuted by U.N. aid agencies.
Israel has warned displaced Palestinians, who sought refuge in southern Gaza, not to return to their homes in the north. However, despite this warning, some Palestinians attempted to return, resulting in two deaths and several injuries caused by Israeli troops.
Hamas has pledged to release at least 50 hostages held since October 7th, including the release of women and children in stages. Israel, in turn, will free 150 Palestinian prisoners. The hope is that this initial release will build momentum and contribute to a complete cessation of violence.
However, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has informed troops that the current lull in fighting will be brief, with intensified war operations planned for the next two months. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains committed to destroying Hamas’ military capabilities, ending their rule in Gaza, and securing the release of all hostages.
On Friday, there were no attacks reported along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where the militant group Hezbollah has been active. Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, was expected to respect the cease-fire agreement.
The war between Israel and Hamas started when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, resulting in numerous casualties and the taking of hostages, including civilians and soldiers. The release of soldiers is contingent on the release of all Palestinians held by Israel, according to the Islamic Jihad militant group, who currently holds approximately 40 hostages.
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