The tenuous truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which has allowed for the release of 58 hostages thus far, has amazingly held despite the fact that neither side is in direct contact and both are determined to destroy the other.
The question now is how long the convergence of interests that produced the agreement will hold, permitting the release of more people kidnapped in the Israeli terror strikes by Hamas and the admission of more trucks carrying much-needed humanitarian supplies into Gaza.
As Thanksgiving was being celebrated in the United States, captives and their families were reunited in an emotional exchange sparked by rapid changes in the Middle East. However, the suffering of Palestinians and the majority of those remaining in custody highlighted the horrific cost of the conflict.
The conflict may soon resume and get much more expensive and unmanageable, according to medium- and longer-term variables that are emerging now that President Joe Biden is back in Washington following his holiday weekend in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Nevertheless, optimism is growing that the agreement won’t expire on Monday as planned following the four days of releases that were agreed upon. The provision that Hamas is attempting to get included in the original agreement would have required additional days of Israeli attack pauses in exchange for the release of ten captives from each side.
According to a statement from his office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden in a call on Sunday that an extension would be appreciated if the notion was considered with the Israeli Cabinet.
Additionally, the two crucial agreement facilitators, the US and Qatar, hope to build on the momentum of the ceasefire to put an end to the war permanently, which might result in the release of more hostages and the protection of civilians.
Both Israel and Hamas seem to have good reasons to keep the truce in place for the near future. As more hostages return home, Netanyahu, who has been subjected to intense political pressure from the families of those detained, may experience some amount of respite. Meanwhile, Hamas has profited from the cessation of Israeli ground operations and airstrikes, which is expected to allow it to regroup and get ready for an anticipated expanded Israeli attack on its southern strongholds.
Civilian Carnage in Gaza
Biden has a strong imperative to delay or prevent more civilian carnage in Gaza—both for humanitarian reasons and to defuse a domestic political backlash from young, progressive voters who have denounced his unwavering support for Israel. The US is seeking the return of Americans who were detained or unaccounted for following the Hamas raids on October 7.
And suffering exists far from Israel and Gaza. Three Palestinian college students were shot in Vermont, and a suspect has been taken into custody. According to a news release from the Burlington Police Department, 48-year-old Jason J. Eaton was taken into custody on Sunday afternoon, close to the attack site. The charges against him were not made public by the police on Monday morning. It is unknown to CNN if Eaton is represented by an attorney. The incident comes as antisemitism has increased, making American Jews feel less secure.
Humanitarian objectives might benefit from a protracted ceasefire, but there could not be much time before Israel’s or Hamas’s strategic objectives change. This implies that there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the fate of the remaining hostages, who include a sizable number of young men and some members of the Israeli security services.
For example, given the current circumstances, Hamas is once again able to dictate the pace of the battle by influencing Israeli military actions and responses through the use of hostages. What Israel promises to be a drive to eradicate the Islamist movement is made more difficult by the hiatus. Furthermore, Netanyahu’s administration will face a grave moral conundrum as the fate of the hostages that are still held is weighed against the larger objectives of the Israeli military.