A number of Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded on Tuesday in an attack by Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said, in what appeared to be the first serious violation of the temporary pause in fighting, which started Friday.
According to the IDF, three explosive devices were detonated near forces at two separate locations in the northern Gaza Strip “in violation of the truce agreements” on Monday.
The army said that in one of the incidents, gunfire was also directed at troops, who returned fire.
“In both cases, the IDF forces were within the agreed-upon ceasefire lines,” the military said.
Hamas claimed that Israel violated the truce first. The spokesman for the military wing of Hamas said its fighters were responding to a “clear violation” by the IDF in the northern Gaza Strip, which resulted in a clash, offering no further details.
Hamas said it is “committed to the truce as long as the enemy adheres to it,” and called on the mediators — Qatar, Egypt, and the US — “to pressure the occupation to adhere to all the terms of the truce on the ground and in the air.”
Speaking in northern Israel, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi warned that the military was ready “today” to potentially resume fighting in the Gaza Strip and “preparing to continue fighting to dismantle Hamas.”
“It will take time, these are complex goals, but they are more than justified,” Halevi said of Israel’s declared aim to destroy the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza following the October 7 shock assault in southern Israel, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists invaded communities near the Palestinian enclave, killing 1,200 people, most of them civilians in their homes and at a music festival, and taking some 240 hostages.
An initial agreement for a temporary truce in Gaza started on Friday with a lull in fighting at 7 a.m. and the release hours later of the first group of Israeli civilian hostages. It marked the first pause in the fighting in over seven weeks.
Since Friday, Hamas has released a total of 30 Israeli children and 20 Israeli women, 10 of them mothers of freed kids, as well as an Israeli-Russian man set free as a gesture to Moscow, and 18 foreigners — 17 Thais and a Filipino — released as part of a separate, Iran-brokered deal.
In return, Israel has freed 150 female and underage Palestinians serving time in Israeli prison for security offenses.
Halevi said the military was “using the days of truce as part of the agreement for learning, strengthening readiness, and approving the operational plans for the continuation” of the military campaign.
The fragile truce was extended on Monday night for two days, building on the original agreement, and is expected to see the release of at least 20 more Israeli hostages from Gaza.
Mossad chief David Barnea was in the Qatari capital Doha Tuesday for talks with CIA Director Bill Burns and top Qatari officials, The Times of Israel was told.
It is Barnea’s third trip to Qatar since the start of the war on October 7, and he also hosted top Qatari officials in Israel, as Doha mediates between Israel and Hamas.
Barnea was focusing on ensuring the smooth release of the additional 20 hostages and possibly expanding the temporary truce for more days in order to ensure the release of all Israeli women and children.
Israel believes there were up to 93 women and children in total being held by the terror groups, excluding five female soldiers, and feels the next two days are critical in getting Hamas to extend the deal to include all of them.
Israel has agreed to release 30 Palestinian security prisoners and extend the truce by 24 hours for every 10 Israeli hostages released.
Barnea’s trip will also potentially lay the groundwork for future deals that could include hostages who did not fall under the current agreement, including men and possibly soldiers.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, together with National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, and the military secretary held a phone conversation with Barnea in the late afternoon.
Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir appeared to push for Israel to scrap the ongoing truce deal with Hamas, following the attacks on troops in northern Gaza.
In a statement, Ben Gvir urges Netanyahu not to “contain” the incident, but to unleash an Israeli response and “order the IDF to resume forcefully crushing Hamas.”
“We cannot wait for them to kill our fighters,” wrote Ben Gvir, a member of the security cabinet.
War cabinet minister Benny Gantz, head of the National Unity party, said fighting in Gaza would resume promptly after the temporary ceasefire ends. “The entire war cabinet is united in this position. We are preparing for the next stages of the war, and for expanding the operation in the Gaza Strip as a whole. There will be no… refuge for terrorists and Hamas leaders,” he vowed.
In his announcement Monday, Halevi said the release of the hostages so far as part of the truce agreement was a “great relief,” and promised that the IDF will not stop until all of them are free.
Before the current deal for 50 Israeli hostages and the subsequent extension, Hamas released four abductees — two elderly women and an American-Israeli mother and daughter — and killed two hostages, 19-year-old Cpl. Noa Marciano, and Yehudit Weiss, 65. The Israeli military rescued one hostage, Pvt. Ori Megidish, in late October during operations in northern Gaza.
Megidish was an observation soldier, taken hostage by Hamas when terrorists stormed the Nahal Oz base on October 7.
Halevi said “the return of the hostages is a ray of light for all of us,” and “another testament to the results of significant military pressure and high-quality ground maneuvering.”
“We created the conditions for the return of our citizens home. We will continue to do so,” Halevi said.
Speaking on recent reports that the military had intelligence of Hamas’s plans for the October 7 onslaught, but senior officers largely ignored the warnings by their subordinates, Halevi said everything will be investigated after the war.
“In the last few days, there has been discourse about the conduct of the IDF and the Military Intelligence Directorate prior to the October 7 events. In view of the dire results, the interest in this is understandable,” he said.
“We will answer to this. We will listen carefully to each and every one of our subordinates and learn both what they thought and what they said,” he said.
“The IDF, including the Military Intelligence Directorate, failed in the October 7 events. There will be sharp and deep investigations, but now we must focus on fighting,” Halevi said.
The commanders of the IDF and in particular the personnel of the Military Intelligence Directorate and the Southern Command are currently busy fighting,” he added. “It would not be right for IDF commanders to be busy discussing responsibility with one or the other, I need them working together in the face of the many and complex tasks before them.
Halevi said all the commanders he has met since the beginning of the war showed a “heavy sense of responsibility.”
“Right now everything is dedicated to fighting. We will not stop until we restore security to the State of Israel,” he vowed.