In a welcome development, Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day humanitarian pause for a prisoner exchange deal. Qatar which mediated the agreement, announced that the starting time of the pause will be announced within the next 24 hours and shall last for four days, subject to extension. Israeli cabinet approved the ceasefire with Hamas which includes the release of some 50 hostages held by the group. The truce deal comes as a relief to families of captives as they had maintained pressure on the Israeli government for the negotiations.

Israel mentioned the potential for extending the truce beyond four days, with an additional day for every 10 hostages released. However, it also made clear that Israel plans to resume its campaign against Hamas once this hostage release concludes. But if the swap succeeds and all hostages are released by the Hamas, Israel will find it difficult to continue its military operation to eliminate Hamas. Israel may be operating on compressed timelines to achieve what they can call a decisive victory. However, the ceasefire would buy Israel some time to maintain support from its partners in the U.S. and Europe. It could also provide Hamas a window to regroup.

This article analyses the events leading to the first glimmer of hope in the brutal war which has claimed over 15,000 lives.

Nicholas Kristof, a NewYork Time coulmnist in conversation with Fareed Zakaria on CNN a few days back said, “Hamas may be winning.” It expected Israel to overreact to its brutal strike, which Israel did. Palestine issue is back on the international agenda from which it was slipping. He adds, “Hamas wanted to change the narrative with a particularly brutal attack on Israel. Israel’s ferocious bombing has elevated the Palestinian cause. The international sympathy for Israel is dissipating. The focus has moved off the Israeli hostages. Hamas has managed to advance the Palestinian cause and garner international attention and sympathy.”

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. Over 14,000 Palestinians including many children have been killed. Over 30,000 have been injured. 1.5 million residents of Gaza may have been displaced. Terrible images from Gaza were becoming a major problem for Israel as it tried to maintain international support.

Despite initial support from the West amidst a brutal Hamas assault which took Israel and the world by surprise, the massive loss of lives in Gaza has been shifting the narrative against Israel, somewhat favouring the objectives of Hamas. The war has repositioned Palestinians at the forefront of the Muslim and Arab world’s concerns, reigniting backing for their cause and fuelling widespread public discontent toward Israel and its backers. Turkiye and Arab Nations having relations with Israel like Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, are experiencing increased tension due to their populations’ strong pro-Palestinian sentiments. This has created a widening gap between government policies and public opinion, raising doubts about the future of Arab normalization with Israel. It bolstered Iran’s influence in the Muslim World and Arab affairs, though its stand remains at much variance with major Arab nations who favour a two-state solution. The war has triggered global protests denouncing Israel’s actions and Israel had to give in to growing international calls for a ceasefire.

As the war nears its 50th day, it’s unclear if Israel has achieved significant military objectives. A combination of fierce Israeli bombardment and international pressure may contributed to the release of some hostages, while the future of others hangs in balance. Hamas remains under pressure, and its capability is dented, but the ideology remains alive; there may be danger of it even spreading the West Bank, where the situation continues to deteriorate. Within Israel, PM Benjamin Netanyahu is facing pressure to resign. In the US, President Biden encountered dissent within his administration and the country, causing him to intensify pressure on Israel for a ceasefire. Israel is operating on compressed timelines to achieve its war aims.

But for now, let us celebrate the first hope for a new beginning for peace in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The article has reference to open sources including Reuters, CNN, Al Jazeera, datasurfr.ai among others.

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