In the Gaza war, following the release of dozens of hostages held by the terrorist organization Hamas, there are signs that the ceasefire, which is limited until Tuesday morning, will be extended. The first ceasefire after seven weeks was brokered by Qatar, among others. A total of 58 Israeli hostages and 177 Palestinian prisoners have been released so far. The Gaza war has thus entered a new phase.
The most important questions and answers about the agreement and its possible future.
During the ceasefire that was initially agreed for four days, 50 hostages were supposed to be released from the Islamist Hamas - as of Monday, this was also achieved. Initially, mothers, children and young people as well as older women were released. The hostages are either Israelis or residents of Israel and people with dual citizenship. According to Israeli media, most of the hostages at Kibbutz Nir Oz were kidnapped by terrorists.
Psychologists assume that the children in particular could be severely traumatized after seven weeks of being held hostage. Many of them witnessed the worst violence on October 7, when terrorists from Hamas and other groups killed around 1,200 people in the Israeli border area. It is unclear how many of the 240 people kidnapped at the time are still alive and exactly where they are being held in the Gaza Strip.
Hostages and prisoners have already been exchanged three times, and the fourth group of hostages since the ceasefire began could be released on Monday. But according to media reports, Israel and the Islamist Hamas are dissatisfied with the lists of names for the planned exchange. An Israeli government spokesman declined to comment on the reports. A Hamas official in Beirut, Lebanon, said comments had been forwarded to Qatari and Egyptian mediators.
About three Palestinian prisoners are expected to be released for every hostage released. Israel published a list of a maximum of 300 people who could be released. 123 of the 300 Palestinians listed there are young people under the age of 18, so the youngest are 14 years old. According to the list, 33 prisoners are girls and women. The prisoners are accused of, among other things, throwing firebombs, arson and knife attacks.
Around 2,000 Palestinians are currently in so-called “administrative detention” in Israel. This allows Israel to detain Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial for even minor offenses. Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have criticized this practice for years, while Israel argues that this is necessary due to the complex security situation.
Before October 7, the number of Palestinians held by Israel in administrative detention had already reached its highest level in 20 years. According to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, 1,310 Palestinians were detained without charge or trial at the end of September, including at least 146 minors. That is why, even before the current situation, the Palestinian side demanded that Israel release these prisoners.
On the other hand, the exchange of hostages and prisoners is controversial because Israel has already had bad experiences with it. In 2011, for example, Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was released after five years in Hamas captivity in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Among the released prisoners was the current head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Jihia al-Sinwar, who is considered one of the main initiators of the massacre on October 7th.
This is considered certain. However, it is unclear how much advantage it can gain from this, especially since the Israeli military has control of the north. In any case, there are fears in Israel that Hamas could use the time to reposition itself and emerge stronger from the ceasefire. The terrorist organization will also still have many hostages in its control even after the break in fighting has ended, which it is likely to continue to use as bargaining chips.
As part of the ceasefire agreement, a significant expansion of humanitarian aid was also agreed. Over the weekend, several hundred trucks carrying relief supplies arrived in the Gaza Strip, including tankers carrying fuel and gas.
Nevertheless, the suffering people in Gaza are completely worn out after around seven weeks of war, and aid workers speak of a dramatic humanitarian crisis. According to UN figures, more than 1.7 million people are now internally displaced, i.e. around three quarters of the population. There is a lack of pretty much everything: food, water and medicine are very scarce, as are the chances of medical treatment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) last week, 22 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip have now ceased operations. According to the UN, there are now only around 1,400 of the 3,500 beds in hospitals - although there are more and more injured people.
As a result of the massive Israeli air strikes and the ground offensive in the northern part, according to the Hamas authorities, almost 15,000 people were killed and more than 36,000 people were injured. The figures cannot currently be independently verified, but are considered overall credible by the UN and diplomats.
There is currently hope that the ceasefire will be extended to a maximum of ten days. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu signaled his willingness to do so on Sunday. Accordingly, the agreement with Hamas provides for the possibility of extending the pause in fighting in return for the release of ten more hostages per day. Another 184 hostages are said to still be in the hands of their captors. Hamas also says it is seeking an extension.
However, Israel has made it very clear that it sees the ceasefire as just that - a pause. Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized that the war would continue “until we have achieved all of our goals.” This included the elimination of Hamas and the return of all hostages. In addition, there should no longer be a threat to Israel in Gaza. Hamas, in turn, has the ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic state throughout historic Palestine. Hamas wants to destroy the state of Israel. A Hamas spokesman has also threatened to repeat the October 7 massacres.
Further sources: “Vox”, “Sky News”