On the 47th day of war in Israel the government and Hamas announced today that they would uphold a brief cease-fire in Gaza to allow for the release of 50 hostages Hamas captured during its massacre of Israelis on October 7th. The decision includes a pause of at least four days in the fighting in Gaza. If it holds, it would be the longest halt in hostilities since Hamas’s massacre prompted Israel to begin its bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza. The pause in hostilities is due to start at 10 AM local time on Thursday. Hizballah announced today that they would suspend their attacks on Israel during the pause in fighting as well.
Under the terms of the deal 50 Israeli women and children would be freed in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian women and other detainees under the age of 19. Israel has also agreed to let in more aid supplies to Gaza; continue to allow civilians to evacuate northern Gaza; and halt its surveillance flights over southern Gaza except for a six-hour window every day.
Before Israeli ministers voted to approve the hostage deal, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s emergency war cabinet, said the deal was “hard and painful from a human perspective.” But he called it the best possible option to allow Israel to continue “pursuing the campaign” against Hamas. Except for three far right members of the cabinet, everyone else voted in favor.
This is not a great deal, but as Nadav Eyal, one of Israel’s most respected journalists opined last night: “If you don’t defend citizens from kidnap and murder, you end up choosing between terrible options and slightly less bad options.”
To date 390 soldiers have died since October 6th. 70 soldiers have died since the start of hostilities on October 7th. The war affects everyone. Within 3,000 yards of where I live in Jerusalem, 4 families are in the week of mourning for their sons, brothers, parents and friends.
US forces have carried out two series of strikes against Iran-backed forces and their facilities in Iraq since Monday, according to U.S. Central Command. On Wednesday, US strikes targeted an operations center and a command-and-control node used by the Iran-backed militant group Kataib Hezbollah near Al Anbar and Jurf al-Saqr. The facilities had supported recent attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria. At least six militants were killed in the two strikes. On Monday, US forces struck and killed Iran-backed proxies who earlier had launched a close-range ballistic missile against al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. The ballistic missile attack caused injuries to eight US personnel. More than 60 rocket and drone attacks against US forces have occurred since Oct. 17.
After 45 days of conflict, residents of 40 communities in the Western Negev located 4 to 7 km. from the border with Gaza will be allowed to return home in the coming days, due to the “progress of the combat and a shift in the operational situation,” the IDF said. Moreover, residents will be allowed to enter localities that are 0 to 4 km. from the Gaza border, but only for the purpose of taking care of their homes or for brief visits.
We pray that the pause in fighting will be met with the successful release of 25-40% of the hostages and that they will return to the arms of their loved ones in good health and whole.