A four-day pause and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners. Seen from London or New York, this seems like a reasonable measure to secure the return of 50 Israeli hostages. Pause the fighting; allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza; satisfy the Americans, who were reportedly pushing hard for the deal; get a good number of your citizens back. What’s not to like?
The reality, however, is somewhat more complicated. A four-day pause in fighting is not a static affair. At least, it may be for the IDF, but it isn’t for Hamas. They will spend the time resupplying, including seizing as much aid as they need from humanitarian convoys entering the territory. Moreover, as part of the deal, Israel agreed to stop its aerial surveillance of the south of the Strip for a period each day, allowing its enemy to prepare the next battlefield without being observed. What surprises will Israeli troops face when they pursue their adversaries into the civilian areas in the south?
As Israel’s soldiers sit on their tanks playing cards, sleeping, calling their families and singing to keep up their morale, they will find themselves in greater danger by the hour. Hamas spotters will be wasting no time in observing their positions, taking photographs, learning from their formations and drawing up tactics for the next phase of the fighting.
Any incoming small arms fire will place the IDF in a quandary. Was it significant enough to count as a break in the ceasefire? Was it carried out by Hamas and its allies, or simply a Gazan resident? Can Israel risk a response? As ever, Israel is placed in a position of trying to uphold the highest standards of humanity while facing an enemy that not only views basic morality with disdain but seeks to weaponise it against the Jewish state.