The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on Friday morning said that they have resumed fighting in the Gaza Strip, after the seven-day truce with the Hamas militant group expired today with no word of an extension. Israel also accused Hamas of violating the ceasefire by firing towards Israeli territory.
"Hamas violated the operational pause, and in addition, fired toward Israeli territory. The IDF has resumed combat against the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza," said the IDF on social media platform X. The development came roughly an hour after rocket sirens were sounded in areas as the military intercepted a launch from Gaza.
During the week-long truce, Hamas and other militants in Gaza released more than 100 hostages, most of them Israelis, in return for 240 Palestinians freed from prisons in Israel. At least eight Israeli hostages were released on Thursday in the latest exchange, in return for 30 Palestinian prisoners.
Nearly all of the released captives were women and children, but the fact that few such hostages remained in Gaza complicated reaching a deal for a further extension. The future of the truce now depends on the release of around 125 men Israel says are held captive, including several dozen soldiers. Hamas had also been expected to set a higher price for the remaining hostages, especially Israeli soldiers.
The Israel-Hamas ceasefire
The truce was set to expire on Friday morning, but mediators are working on extending it by at least another day. There has been increasing international pressure for the truce to be extended to secure the release of as many hostages as possible from the Gaza Strip, nearly two months after a devastating war broke out when Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.
While over 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, the retaliatory action by Israeli forces killed thousands of Palestinians and uprooted the majority of the 2.3 million population of Gaza, escalating into a dire humanitarian crisis. Israel had vowed to resume the fighting after the truce period expires - appearing set on its goal to eliminate Hamas and end its 16-year rule in the Strip.
At least 240 Palestinians have been released so far under the ceasefire, mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces. Several of the freed women were convicted by military courts of attempting to attack soldiers, some of them after being found carrying scissors or knives near security positions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is currently on his fourth visit to Israel since the war broke out, reiterated that his immediate focus was to work on an extend the temporary cessation of fighting to get more hostages out of Gaza.
He also underscored that if Israel resumes fighting and moves toward southern Gaza to pursue Hamas, it must do so in “compliance with international humanitarian law” and must have “a clear plan in place” to protect civilians, in his meeting with Israeli officials.
How many hostages have been released?
At least 83 Israelis - including dual-nationals - have been freed from Hamas captivity in the Strip during the seven-day truce. Hamas also released 24 captives of other nationalities in the same period. About 140 hostages still remain in Gaza, and mediators are trying to secure their release.
Hamas earlier claimed that Israel refused to accept a proposed list that included seven living hostages and the remains of three who were claimed to have been killed in previous Israeli airstrikes. Israel says around 125 men are still held hostage by Hamas and has strongly resisted the release of convicted Palestinians.
The truce also survived a deadly shooting incident in Jerusalem on Thursday, where two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on civilians at a bus stop, killing three. A fourth Israeli was shot by security forces after they mistook him for an attacker, and succumbed to his wounds on late Thursday.
The attack was carried out by brothers from the occupied east Jerusalem and Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it as retaliation for the killing of women and children in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Six members of the attackers' family have been arrested and their house has been ordered for demolition.
(with inputs from agencies)