Race Against Violence: Ceasefire Countdown Gaza’s Fragile Hope

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Trapped in Gaza
Trapped in Gaza

Ceasefire Hangs in Balance: Delayed till Friday Devastating Strikes on Gaza Continue

A long-awaited ceasefire in Gaza now has an official start time, raising hopes that over six weeks of horrendous violence may soon pause. Qatar mediator Majed al-Ansari announced the truce will commence at 7am local time on Friday and last four days initially.

It was originally slated to begin on Thursday but faced unexplained delays, despite frantic last-minute diplomacy. As part of phased deals secured through arduous negotiation, Hamas will release the first group of hostages in the afternoon, including 13 women and children.

Further prisoner swaps aim to secure freedom for over 240 Israelis held captive since Hamas’ October 7 raids. In exchange, Israel will free at least 150 Palestinians and allow vital humanitarian aid into blockaded Gaza.

The ceasefire deal also restricts Israeli aerial activity over Gaza and provides assurance against new arrests there. While deep distrust remains after months of bloodshed, the breakthrough pact offers a glimmer of respite for Gaza’s shredded hospitals and infrastructure. The clock starts ticking down to a tenuous peace at 7am.

For bereaved families on both sides, these coming days may determine whether more lives are needlessly lost, or a sustainable path to de-escalation finally emerges from the rubble.

Even as a tentative ceasefire deal looms, Israel continues its devastating strikes on Gaza. The IDF reported over 300 Hamas targets hit in the past day alone, slightly exceeding recent daily rates.

Airstrikes pummel locations like Jabalya and Beit Hanoun, as tanks kill alleged militants in the north. The IDF claims discovery of multiple tunnel shafts, including near a mosque and civilian homes. As always, evidence to support such assertions remains undisclosed.

The drumbeat of war rattles on while Gazans await respite. Borders stay locked, aid convoys idle as the IDF continues attacks with impunity. The ceasefire’s delay prolongs the agony.

Al-Shifa’s director being held

Mohammad Abu Salmiya
Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the director of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, was arrested on Thursday [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

In another potential flash poit, Israel detained a top Gazan health official on Thursday. IDF forces arrested Al-Shifa Hospital director Dr Mohammed Abu Salmiya along with other doctors. Abu Salmiya was seized evacuating patients, despite coordinating with the WHO.

Israel alleges Hamas uses Al-Shifa for military operations, charges hospital staff vehemently deny. Last week’s IDF raid on the hospital complex directly killed over 40 patients, including premature infants, due to electricity cuts shutting down life-saving equipment.

The Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza has also ordered 450 patients and staff to evacuate under IDF threats. Israel has frequently struck the facility while baselessly alleging Hamas infiltration.

These direct attacks on Gazan healthcare amidst an ostensible ceasefire again prompts questions. How does terrorising sick children and patients correlate to security aims? Does impunity now extend to violating potential truce terms before agreed ceasefires even begin?

Once again world leaders turn a blind eye, indifferent to Israel’s breach of all ethical norms and international law. Gaza’s civilians suffer the consequences, their pain and loss deemed acceptable in the name of geopolitical manoeuvring. A true ceasefire must affirm the right of hospitals to operate unhindered. There are no exceptions. Leaders must demand Israel commits fully to avoiding more civilian bloodshed or lose legitimacy irreparably. Empty words without accountability only enable the next round of horrors. People’s lives hang in the balance.

For now, much needed aid waits on the border

A large convoy of aid trucks has lined up on the Egyptian side of the the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, on standby for when a truce between Israel and Hamas begins.

Trucks carrying aid wait to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing on November 22, in Arish, Egypt.
Trucks carrying aid wait to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing on November 22, in Arish, Egypt. Ali Moustafa/Getty Images

Key points about start of truce

The news conference from the Qatari foreign ministry’s spokesperson in Doha has now ended. Here are the main points:

  • Four-day truce to begin on Friday at 7am (05:00 GMT) local time in Gaza.
  • Qatar expects aid to go into Gaza as soon as possible from the Rafah crossing.
  • First batch of captives held in Gaza – 13 women and children – to be released at approximately 4pm (14:00 GMT) local time on Friday.
  • Captives will be handed over to Red Cross to make transfer as safe as possible.
  • Palestinian prisoners are also meant to be released tomorrow.
  • Meetings took place in a positive environment.
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