Monday, May 27, 2024

Under pressure from allies to ease the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as it welcomes Israeli hostages home under the terms of a fragile cease-fire, Israel faces an increasingly difficult set of decisions about the future of its war against Hamas.

Israeli leaders have vowed to eliminate Hamas, the group that has controlled Gaza since 2007 and that led devastating attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. They have also promised to recover all of the roughly 240 people who were kidnapped by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups that day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cited the recovery of hostages in justifying his support for the pause in Israel’s ground invasion — and has also said that Israel’s military is ready to resume fighting once the cease-fire arrangement ends.

But the deal also gives Hamas time to regroup and retrench, making Israel’s objective of rooting it out more difficult. And Israel’s release of Palestinians from imprisonment or detention under the arrangement has been accompanied by growing support for Hamas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The extended cease-fire has also allowed aid to reach more of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents, most of whom have been displaced by the fighting and face dire shortages of food, medicine and fuel.

Where does the cease-fire agreement stand?

Israel and Hamas have extended their brief truce from four to six days, according to Qatar, which has been mediating their talks. The agreement has so far held, despite accusations by each side that the other had violated it.

Since Friday, Hamas has released at least 60 Israeli hostages and Israel has freed 180 imprisoned Palestinians. Nineteen other hostages in Gaza — 17 Thais, one Filipino and one Russian-Israeli dual citizen — have been released since Friday through separate negotiations.

Where does Israel’s military campaign stand?

Before the cease-fire agreement took hold on Friday, Israel’s military had bombarded the Gaza Strip for weeks, saying it had struck over 15,000 targets. The bombardment included the use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, and Palestinian health authorities in the Hamas government have said that more than 13,000 people have been killed, including thousands of children. The bombardment, the large number of deaths and the displacement of the majority of Gaza’s 2.2 million people have fueled international outcry over the scope of Israel’s campaign.

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