Israel and Hamas extend their truce, but it seems only a matter of time before the war resumes

Israel and Hamas extend their truce, but it seems only a matter of time before the war resumes

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — A truce between Israel and Hamas entered its fifth day on Tuesday, with the militant group promising to release more civilian hostages to delay the expected resumption of the war and Israel under growing pressure to spare Palestinian civilians when the fighting resumes.

The sides agreed to extend their truce through Wednesday, with another two planned exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. But Israel has repeatedly vowed to resume the war with “full force” to destroy Hamas once it’s clear that no more hostages will be freed under the current agreement’s terms.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit the region later this week for the third time since the start of the war, and is expected to press for an extension of the truce and the release of more hostages.

The State Department said he would also discuss efforts to “protect civilian life during Israel’s operations in Gaza” and accelerate the delivery of aid to the impoverished coastal strip. Israel’s top ally has pledged unwavering support for its Gaza offensive, but Blinken has also said “far too many” Palestinians have been killed.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for a long-term cease-fire and the release of all hostages in a statement Monday, reflecting broad international support for a cessation of hostilities.

Hamas and other militants are still holding about 160 people, out of the 240 seized in their Oct. 7 assault into southern Israel that ignited the war. That’s enough to potentially extend the truce for another two weeks under the existing framework brokered by the Qatar, Egypt and the U.S., but Hamas is expected to make much higher demands for the release of captive soldiers.

Either way, Israel says it is committed to resuming the war, which is already the deadliest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades. It blames the soaring casualty toll on Hamas, accusing the militants of using civilians as human shields while operating in dense, residential areas.

Israel has vowed to end Hamas’ 16-year rule in Gaza and crush its military capabilities. That would almost certainly require expanding the ground offensive from northern Gaza — where entire residential areas have been pounded into rubble — to the south, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have packed into overflowing United Nations shelters.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards his aircraft prior to departure, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., as he travels to Brussels for a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)