Gaza: Four-day temporary ceasefire takes effect
The four-day temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect at 7.00 local time (6.00 Belgian time) on Friday. The pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip should allow Israeli hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.
Israel and the extremist organisation Hamas had reached an agreement on Wednesday on a combat pause after negotiations mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the US. The temporary ceasefire comes on the 49th day of the bloody conflict between the two sides.
The parties also reached a deal on the exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners. The release of the first hostages, 13 women and children, is expected around 16.00 local time. Altogether, 50 hostages should be released during the pause in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners.
No violations thus far
For now, the temporary ceasefire appears to be holding. A Reuters correspondent saw no activity by the Israeli air force and no signs of Palestinian rocket launches after the ceasefire came into effect. Previous conflicts in Gaza have seen repeated violations at the start of ceasefires, by both sides.
In a message on X, the Israeli army said northern Gaza remained a war zone and residents are prohibited from going there. They are advised to move to southern Gaza for their own safety. Both Hamas and Israel confirmed that fighting would resume after the end of the temporary ceasefire.
The conflict has led to the loss of thousands of lives. According to Israeli authorities, the Hamas attack on 7 October killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians. Some 240 people were taken hostage. Meanwhile, 14,854 Gazans have been killed, including 6,150 children, according to the Hamas government.
Palestinians who had taken refuge return to their homes in the southern Gaza Strip during the first hours of the temporary ceasefire © PHOTO MAHMUD HAMS / AFP