Israel plans next phase of Gaza war as first hostages released

After four-day ceasefire 'we will not stop' until destruction of Hamas, says Israel

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant visits the 91st Division's base in northern Israel
Defence minister Yoav Gallant has said that Israel will resume bombardment of Gaza with 'full military power' after the pause in fighting
(Image credit: sraeli Defense Minister/Anadolu via Getty)

As it prepares for the imminent release of hostages by Hamas, the Israeli government has reiterated that the current truce is only a "short pause" after which it will resume its bombardment with "full military power".

"We will not stop until we achieve our goals: the destruction of Hamas and bringing home the hostages from Gaza to Israel," the Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant told his Italian counterpart in Tel Aviv, Al Jazeera reported. The Israeli army has also opened fire to stop displaced Palestinians from returning to northern Gaza, according to the news site. 

The "tentative" four-day ceasefire began on Friday, said the Financial Times, "setting the ground" for the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas and 150 Palestinian prisoners in Israel. 

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The Qatar-brokered pause "appeared to be holding", with tankers of fuel and cooking gas entering Gaza, raising hopes for an exchange of hostages and prisoners and that "substantial humanitarian aid would be allowed into the besieged enclave". According to the Palestinian authorities nearly 15,000 people have died during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in retaliation for the 7 October massacre carried out by Hamas.

The agreement was made "within the framework of the truce and the schedule for the release of the hostages", the Israeli defence ministry has said, but does not signal an end to its war against Hamas. However, the US will not support Israeli forces expanding their campaign in Gaza without a plan to protect civilians evacuated to the south of the territory, the White House has said.

But to the Israeli public, "it's already clear that the killing of all the leading figures in Hamas, in the Gaza Strip and abroad, is an ancillary purpose of the campaign," said Amos Harel in Haaretz. For Israelis now, it is about the hostages and their families, and the "alleviation of their suffering". 

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