The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas – originally negotiated at four days, but extended to seven – has ended with a Hamas murder squad killing three Israelis and wounding others at a bus stop near Jerusalem. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) brought the consequences of Hamas terrorists’ October 7 atrocities back to the murders’ doorstep in Gaza. After nearly seven weeks of the IDF inflicting significant casualties on the terrorists, Israel agreed to a lull in the fighting.
Cease-fires amid raging armed combat are tricky and fragile events. When the exchange of hostages is involved, the dynamic is even more complicated. The side getting the worst of the battle before the pause in fighting generally benefits the most. In the case of Hamas, this was true initially, as the terrorist organization was given time to regroup, adjust battle plans, and re-allocate fighters to areas in northern and southern Gaza where needed. Regardless, Hamas elected to violate the agreement, and Israel responded.
Hamas Faulted for Breaking Cease-fire With Israel
As the Times of Israel reported, Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained to reporters as he was leaving Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates:
“It’s important to understand why the pause came to an end. It came to an end because of Hamas. Hamas reneged on commitments it had made. In fact, even before the pause came to an end, it committed an atrocious terrorist attack in Jerusalem, killing three people and wounding others, including Americans. It began firing rockets before the pause ended, and as I said it reneged on the commitments it made in terms of releasing certain hostages.”
The final accounting of the hostages exchanged for imprisoned criminals was reported to be 105 Israelis and others for 240 Palestinians. As news of how the freed young Israeli hostages were treated while in captivity begins to be heard, rage generated by news of the atrocities created a reinvigorated casus belli (an act or an event that either provokes or is used to justify a war).
“Female hostages were kept in cages, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group set up in the wake of the attack, revealed on Monday (November 27). Children were branded in case they escaped, according to Yaniv Yaakov, the uncle of the brothers Or, 16, and Yagil, 12, who were freed on Nov. 27,” Jewish Press reported. The uncle of Or and Yagil described how “Every child that Hamas took was taken on a motorcycle, and they took each child and put their leg in front of the exhaust pipe.”
In an interview with Fox & Friends, Brian Kilmeade asked retired four-star US Army General Jack Keane if he was surprised by the reports of Hamas abusing children taken hostage. Keane responded:
“The focus on killing civilians versus the IDF, then taking wholesale hostages to include women, children and also barbaric treatment of them as now unfolding it’s not surprising…these people are monsters and I believe the national leadership in Israel has got it right. They’ve got to eliminate this organization as a military terrorist organization and certainly as a government.”
To Keane’s point about eliminating Hamas as a terrorist organization and government, Israel carried out anti-Hamas air raids against the town of Khan Younis, where the militants were holed up. The IDF began by dropping leaflets, warning civilians to evacuate. “Indeed, we’ve distributed these leaflets in order to get people out of harm’s way. We do intend on operating. We’re not giving a specific timeline, but as we proved in the past, when we say we are intent on operating, we do operate,” IDF spokesman Peter Learner told Deutsche Welle.
Israel Responds Rapidly to Ceasefire Violations
Within minutes of Hamas violating the ceasefire, the IDF was fully engaged. “The Israeli Air Force and various combat elements attacked over 200 militant targets in the Gaza Strip, including in Khan Younis and Rafah. Ground forces directed airstrikes and cleared destroyed areas booby-trapped with IEDs, tunnel shafts, rocket launching positions, and a Hamas military headquarters,” analysts with the Institute for the Study of War reported. Other accounts of the first day back to the fight put the number of Hamas targets engaged even higher. “The IDF said it had hit more than 400 Hamas’ terror targets’ on the first day of the renewed operation,” the BBC reported.
Hamas will use the hostages it holds as leverage to attempt to force Israel into another pause in fighting. But, as reports of maltreatment of Israeli and foreign abductees by the terrorists come to light, the Israeli government understands better than ever what it is up against, and may be less accommodating and more focused on destroying as much of the Hamas organization as it can.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.