The United States on Tuesday called on Israel to avoid 'significant civilian development' of Palestinians in southern Gaza once it resumes its offensive against the Hamas group in the territory after the temporary truce period expires. The current truce between Israel and Hamas, which was initially slated for four days, has been extended by two more days in exchange for the release of additional hostages.
According to senior US officials, the Biden administration has urged Israel to work with greater precision in the south as compared to northern Gaza, as it seeks to avoid large numbers of civilian casualties and mass displacement that was seen before the war saw a temporary cessation of hostilities.
One of the officials said that the White House has begun to put greater pressure on Israel and that the upcoming campaign against Hamas must be "carefully thought through", amid increasing international and domestic pressure in the US, some even calling for an immediate ceasefire. The official said that Israel has been receptive to these concerns raised by the administration.
US President Joe Biden has remained hopeful that the truce will continue for as long as feasible, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Israel in the wake of the latest development in hopes of extending the truce and securing the release of more hostages.
Although the US has supported Israel's goal of eliminating Hamas and removing its 16-year-old rule over Gaza, they have grown more vocal about protecting the lives of Palestinian civilians. More than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and ground operations since the war broke out on October 7.
The Israel-Hamas temporary ceasefire
Hamas released 11 Israeli hostages on the fourth day of the truce to the Red Cross on Monday. Hamas had announced the extension of the truce agreement by 48 hours just before it was about to expire. On the other hand, 33 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel. Now, the extended deal will allow more humanitarian aid in the conflict-torn territory.
According to the deal, Hamas was expected to release 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners and aid. Israel had said that it would extend the ceasefire by one day for every 10 additional hostages. After the announcement of Qatar, Hamas confirmed that it has agreed to a two-day extension under the same terms.
During the October 7 attack, nearly 240 people were abducted by Hamas and other militants. After Monday, a total of 51 Israelis and 19 hostages of other nationalities have been released from captivity in Gaza. Hamas now has close to 175 hostages, which can potentially extend the truce further for over two weeks in exchange for greater demands.
But Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas' military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza after its October 7 attack into southern Israel. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have crammed into United Nations shelters, and where dire conditions persist despite the increased delivery of aid under the truce.
Israel will resume its operations with “full force” as soon as the current deal expires if Hamas does not agree to further hostage releases, with the goal of eliminating the group and freeing the rest of the captives, government spokesperson Eylon Levy told reporters on Monday.
(with inputs from agencies)