Israel-Hamas truce begins ahead of hostage, prisoner swap

Israel-Hamas truce begins ahead of hostage, prisoner swap

A four-day cease fire in the Israel-Hamas war began Friday morning in Gaza as part of an agreement that Qatar helped broker. The deal also includes the release of dozens of hostages held by militants and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, which was to take place later Friday.

The diplomatic breakthrough promised some relief for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza who have endured weeks of Israeli bombardment, as well as families in Israel who fear for their loved ones taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war.

More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza after a dayslong pause in its casualty report, which it attributed to the health system’s collapse in northern Gaza making it impossible to provide a detailed count.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will press ahead with the war after a cease-fire expires. Some 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the initial incursion by Hamas.

Currently:

— Qatar says the Gaza cease-fire will begin Friday morning, with aid to follow “as soon as possible.”

— Hezbollah fires rockets at north Israel after an airstrike kills 5 of the group’s senior fighters.

— Hundreds of German police raid properties of Hamas supporters across the country.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s what’s happening in the war:

ISRAELI MILITARY SAYS IT HAS DESTROYED TUNNELS UNDER SHIFA HOSPITAL

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Friday it has destroyed stretches of tunnels and a number of tunnel shafts in the area of Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest.

On Wednesday, Israel showed a tunnel and rooms that military officials said were a major Hamas hideout beneath Shifa. Hamas and hospital staff deny Israeli allegations that Shifa was used as a militant command center.

On Thursday, Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel mapped out Shifa Hospital and plans to destroy all “terror infrastructure” it has found.

Separately, the military said it continued to strike targets throughout the night leading up to a four-day truce that began Friday morning. It said it “completed its operational preparations according to the combat lines of the pause.”

ISRAEL WARNS PALESTINIANS NOT TO RETURN TO NORTHERN GAZA

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — The Israeli military has warned hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians who sought refuge in southern Gaza not to attempt to return to their homes in the northern half of the territory, the focus of Israel’s ground offensive.

Arabic-language leaflets dropped Friday over southern Gaza said that “the war has not ended yet” and people should remain in place.

“Returning to the north is prohibited and very dangerous,” the leaflets said. “Your fate and the fate of your families is in your hands. We have warned you.”

Despite the warnings, some Palestinians were seen walking north along Gaza’s main highway. Israeli military spokesperson Avichay Adraee posted on X in Arabic that movement on the highway would only be permitted in one direction: from north to south.

Since the early days of the war triggered by the Hamas attack on southern Israel seven weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of people have left their homes in the north at the orders of the Israeli army.

A FOUR-DAY TRUCE BEGINS IN GAZA

A temporary truce in the Israel-Hamas war took effect early Friday, setting the stage for the exchange of dozens of hostages held by militants in Gaza for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

The halt in fighting began at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and is to last at least four days. During the truce, Gaza’s ruling Hamas group pledged to free at least 50 of the about 240 hostages it and other militants took in their deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel. In turn, Israel is to free three Palestinian prisoners for each released hostage. The releases are to take place in stages over the next four days.

The truce deal was reached in weeks of intense indirect negotiations, with Qatar, the United States and Egypt serving as mediators. If it holds, it would mark the first significant break in fighting since Israel declared war on Hamas seven weeks ago.

About 1,200 people were killed by Hamas attackers in Israel on Oct. 7. Israel responded with a massive air and ground offensive that has devastated large swaths of Gaza and killed at least 13,300 Palestinians.

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