Israeli forces and Hamas fighters appeared to be abiding by a truce for a fifth morning on Tuesday, after a four-day ceasefire was extended at the last minute for at least two days to let more hostages go free.
A single column of black smoke could be seen rising above the obliterated wasteland of the northern Gaza war zone from across the fence in Israel, but there was no sign of jets in the sky or a rumble of explosions.
Both sides reported some Israeli tank fire in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City in the morning, but there were immediate reports of casualties. A spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Forces said: “After suspects approached IDF troops, an IDF tank fired a warning shot.”
During the truce, Hamas fighters released 50 Israeli women and children, as young as toddlers, from among the 240 hostages they captured in southern Israel during a deadly rampage on Oct. 7. In return, Israel released 150 security detainees from its jails, all women and teenagers.
Hamas also separately released 19 foreign hostages, mainly Thai farmworkers, under separate deals parallel to the truce agreement.
Israel has said the truce could extend indefinitely as long as Hamas continues to release at least 10 hostages per day. But with fewer women and children left in captivity, keeping the guns quiet beyond Wednesday could require negotiating to free at least some Israeli men for the first time.
“We hope the Occupation (Israel) abides (by the agreement) in the next two days because we are seeking a new agreement, besides women and children, whereby other categories that we have that we can swap,” Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera late on Monday.
That, he said, would entail “going towards an additional time period to continue swapping people at this stage”.
Israeli security cabinet minister Gideon Saar told Army Radio that the two-day extension had been agreed under the terms of the original offer, and Israel remained willing to extend the truce further if more hostages were released. Israelis would know when the truce was over because the fighting would begin again.
“Immediately upon the completion of the hostage-recovery framework, the warfighting will be renewed,” he said. “We have every intention of implementing the goals of the war as it applies to toppling Hamas in Gaza.” (REUTERS)