The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Hamas and Palestinian militants violated a nascent ceasefire after only 15 minutes after it intercepted a rocket fired towards southern Israel.
Israel evacuated its southern towns of Kissufim and Ein HaShlosha early on Friday morning, minutes after the four-day ceasefire came into effect.
The ceasefire was meant to allow prisoner exchange and the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.
An IDF Spokesperson’s Unit told Newsweek:
“There was a rocket, and it was intercepted,” noting it was fired at 7:15 a.m. local time, 15 minutes following the ceasefire.
While it’s not clear which group launched the rocket and violated the ceasefire, the IDF said Hamas bears responsibility for any attacks from Gaza into southern Israel because it has influence over other local militant groups.
An initial group of 13 hostages – expected to be women and children – are set to be released at 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET). Under the Israel-Hamas agreement, a total of 50 women and children are expected to be freed in a release staggered over four days, while there is a pause in fighting. In return, Israel is set to release 39 Palestinian prisoners – also expected to be women and children.
Meanwhile, Palestinians from the north of the Strip – but who had fled south to avoid the worst of the fighting – are reportedly attempting to return to their homes now the truce has begun.
Below are the latest developments:
Hostage release: In just over an hour, a group of hostages taken by Hamas are set to be freed. They will be received by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops who have made extensive preparations – from medical provisions to how to greet the likely traumatized women and children. The freed hostages are set to be airlifted to hospitals to receive medical treatment.
Palestinian prisoners: Israel is also set to free 39 Palestinian prisoners – of whom 24 are women and 15 are children, a Palestinian official told CNN. The majority of those listed as eligible for release by Israel are male Palestinians aged between 16 and 18 – children under the UN definition – while a handful are as young as 14.
Truce holding: CNN journalists in the southern Israeli city of Sderot said the sounds of heavy weapons fire stopped shortly after 7 a.m. local time Friday. They heard what sounded like small arms fire inside Gaza about 20 minutes later, but artillery fire, airstrikes and rockets appear to have stopped – and, hours on, the truce appears not to have been broken.
Aid in Rafah: With the truce being observed, aid is expected to flow more freely into Gaza. Some 130,000 liters of diesel fuel and four trucks of gas will enter Gaza from Egypt daily starting Friday, according to Egyptian authorities. At least 90 aid trucks have entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing Friday, an Egyptian border official at the border told CNN.
Heading north?: More than a million Palestinians fled from the north of Gaza to the south last month after Israel issued an order to evacuate. After the pause in fighting began, displaced Palestinians are reportedly attempting to return to their homes in the north – but they have been blocked by Israeli forces, a journalist told CNN. The IDF has told people in southern Gaza not to move north, with its forces restricting travel from the north to the south to only one road.
Longer war?: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel’s military operation against Hamas will continue “forcefully” after the truce has been observed. “This will be a brief pause. When it ends, the fighting will continue forcefully, and will create pressure that will allow the return of more hostages,” Gallant said while visiting Israeli troops on Thursday. He said he expected the fighting to continue for “at least two more months.”
Israeli leaders vowed to “crush and destroy” Hamas in Gaza as authorities ordered residents to evacuate to the south.
The Times of Israel they were reported that the IDF used riot dispersal measures to prevent Palestinians from returning to the northern part of the Strip amid the pause in fighting.