Ambulances are seen on a road near an Israeli forces tank during an Israeli army ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.
The brief lull in Israel’s savage onslaught on the defenceless civilian population of Gaza scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. local time Thursday is widely being presented as a “ceasefire,” or at least a “humanitarian pause.”
Assuming the agreement is fulfilled, which is by no means assured, it will amount to little more than an operational pause in Israel’s military offensive to ethnically cleanse Gaza by carrying out a genocide against the Palestinian people.
The terms of the agreement, mediated by Qatar and the United States, include the release by Hamas of 50 women and children among the approximately 240 Israelis captured by Hamas fighters during the October 7 incursion into Israel. In return, Israel will release 150 Palestinian detainees, halt fighting in the Gaza Strip for four days, and permit 200 trucks carrying aid to enter the enclave each day. The number of Palestinian detainees being released is minuscule compared to the over 10,000 Palestinians held in detention by Israel under the most brutal conditions, including routine torture.
The agreement remains highly unstable, illustrated by the announcement late Wednesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser that the release of the first hostages would be delayed by up to 24 hours and only take place Friday. During the four-day pause, Israel will refrain from operating aircraft and drones over southern Gaza, but in the north they will only do so during a short window between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each day.
All Israeli ground forces will remain in place, ready to resume battle at a moment’s notice. As Netanyahu put it at a press conference Wednesday evening, “When the pause is done, we resume the war. It may be that we are forced to do so much earlier.” He also rejected any suggestion that the pause applied to Israel’s northern border, where the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have been striking Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon. Underlining the point, War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz told the same press conference, “What’s happening now in northern Gaza can also happen in southern Lebanon and Beirut.”