This morning, at 7 AM Israel time, a truce between Israel and Hamas took effect. Israel entered into negotiations in hopes of securing the release of approximately 240 Israelis being held captive in Gaza since October 7th.
Here’s what’s been made public about the terms of this tentative four-day pause in the fight to eradicate Hamas. Israel has agreed to release up to 300 prisoners—150 in the first stage of the ceasefire—held in Israeli prisons for crimes less than murder. Most of the prisoners are from East Jerusalem, and many of them are under the age of 18, or women. Hamas has said the IDF agreed to suspend aerial activity over Northern Gaza during certain times of the day, and halt flights over southern Gaza altogether for the next four days. In addition, Israel will allow larger amounts of fuel to cross from Egypt into Gaza. In return, Hamas has agreed to release 50 of the hostages—around 30 children and 20 mothers and other women.
Ahead of an Israeli Knesset Cabinet vote to approve the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the war would continue after the ceasefire. “We are at war, and we will continue the war,” he said. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.” Israel has stated that its goals in this war are to eliminate Hamas and bring back all the hostages.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who sits in Israel’s War Cabinet, said the hostage deal is “difficult” and “painful” but he believes “it is also right.” Israel’s full 38-member government Cabinet voted 35-3 to approve the four-day ceasefire. The three cabinet members opposed to the deal are from the right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party. Party leaders were vocal in their opposition to any deal that does not include the return of all the hostages. “We don’t have the right to agree to separating them and have only some of them return,” party leader Itamar Ben Gvir said. “And we definitely cannot accept an outline that sees the release of female and underage terrorists when we don’t get everyone back.”
Concerns revolve around the fact that these negotiations are taking place with a terrorist organization that has no value for human life. Hamas will doubtlessly use this time of quiet to rearm and reorganize, which greatly increases the potential of a prolonged war and greater loss of life.
Officials in another right-wing party, the Religious Zionist Party, previously opposed the deal, but came to support it after discussions with defense officials. “It is no secret that before the cabinet discussion, we thought otherwise…” wrote party head Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in a statement, noting that conversations with IDF officials convinced them that Israel would continue its mission to destroy Hamas in Gaza.
Smotrich cited unspecified “clear mechanisms” within the deal to prevent “future… surrender to [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar’s manipulation.” He also thanked the IDF for the pressure they put on the terrorist group that created the conditions for the hostage deal, pledging continued government support for the military’s efforts.
It’s no surprise that Hamas leaders would be desperate for some respite after the relentless targeted campaign Israel has waged on their commanders, outposts, weapons arsenals, and other infrastructure. However, Hamas also has a horrible record of violating ceasefires, often using them as opportunities to stage surprise attacks on Israel.
Already, minutes after the ceasefire went into effect, sirens sounded in southern Israel, indicating Hamas was possibly in violation of the ceasefire. Soon after though, trucks with aid began to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. Now, Israelis are holding their breaths in anticipation, as Hamas has agreed to release the first 12 or 13 hostages, starting at 4PM Israel time on Friday.