Israel-Gaza Situation Report: Ceasefire Holds Despite Skirmish

A two-day extension to the tense temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is holding despite a clash between the two enemies in northern Gaza Tuesday that each said violated the agreement.

“Over the last hour, three explosive devices were detonated adjacent to IDF troops in two different locations in the northern Gaza Strip, violating the framework of the operational pause,” the Israeli Defense Forces said on Telegram early Tuesday morning local time. “In one of the locations, terrorists also opened fire at the troops, who responded with fire. A number of soldiers were lightly injured during the incidents.”

The IDF said in both cases, its troops “were located in positions as per the framework of the operational pause.”

Hamas blamed the incident on Israel.

“As a result of a clear violation by the enemy of the truce agreement in the northern Gaza Strip today, field friction occurred and our mujahideen dealt with this violation,” Hamas said on Telegram a few minutes after the IDF statement. “We are committed to the truce as long as the enemy has committed to it and we call on the mediators to pressure the occupation to adhere to all the terms of the truce on the ground and in the air.”

The White House did not expect any American hostages to be released Tuesday by Hamas, a White House official told CNN.  

Three Americans – 4-year-old Abigail Edan and two women — were expected to be among 50 women and children Hamas agreed to release as part of a deal announced between Israel and Hamas last week, the White House had said. Edan was released on Sunday. The two women have yet to be released.

Tuesday night local time, the IDF said 12 more hostages – 10 Israelis and two Thai nationals – were released into Egypt and subsequently arrived in Israel. Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas said that another 30 prisoners held by Israel were released today – 15 women and 15 children.

In his evening address, IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that in addition to notifying families that their loves ones have been freed, those of three Israeli troops killed during their captivity were also notified today.

Both sides say that fighting will continue after the ceasefire ends.

“As for the threat of its leaders to continue the war in Gaza, after the completion of the truce agreement, it is nothing but an empty threat for internal consumption,” Hamas said Tuesday on Telegram. “As for our people and their resistance, they will continue on the path of defending themselves, their land, their sanctuary, and their prisoners until this Nazi enemy is defeated and eliminated.”

Before the most recent release took place, IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said 76 hostages held by Hamas have been returned to Israel. But many more remain captive and Israel is prepared to fight until they all come home, he said Tuesday while touring northern Israel.

“The return of the hostages is a bright light for us all,” he said during a press briefing, according to the IDF Telegram. “It is also further evidence of the results of significant military pressure and resolute ground operations, which created the conditions for the return of our civilians home. The IDF is prepared to continue fighting. We are using the days of the pause as part of the framework to learn, strengthen our readiness and approve future operational plans.”

With tens of thousands of Israelis having moved out of northern Israel due to ongoing attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Halevi vowed to secure that area as well.

“This morning, I met with the heads of the northern municipal authorities and witnessed their leadership during this complex period,” he said. “We will ensure that the residents of the north return to a different, better and more stable security reality.”

“The IDF’s ground operations in Gaza City, a dense and complex area, aim to achieve a worthy and necessary goal. We know, if required, how to apply the same strength in the north, in order to return you safely to your communities, cities and this beautiful and important region of the country.”

In addition to addressing security concerns, Halevi also said that the intelligence failures on Oct. 7 that allowed Hamas to attack for hours without a coordinated response will be investigated.

“The IDF and within it the Intelligence Directorate, failed in the events of October 7th,” he acknowledged. “There will be fundamental and deep investigations, but for now, we must focus on the fighting.”

Those failures came despite “a highly detailed warning that Hamas was actively training to take over kibbutzim on the Gaza border and overrun military posts with the aim of inflicting substantial fatalities” the Guardian reported Tuesday, citing Israeli media accounts.

“The claim made by Israel’s Channel 12 on Monday evening was based on leaked emails from the Israeli military’s 8200 cyber-intelligence unit discussing the warnings,” the publication reported. “Those emails revealed that a senior officer who reviewed the intelligence considered the danger of a massive surprise attack by Hamas across the Gaza border to be ‘an imaginary scenario.'”

Seeking to broaden and extend the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, CIA Director William J. Burns on Tuesday arrived in Qatar for secret meetings with Israel’s spy chief and Qatar’s prime minister, The Washington Post reported, citing three people familiar with the meeting.

Burns is pushing for Hamas and Israel to encompass the release of men and military personnel, too. So far, only women and children have been exchanged by the two warring parties.

He is also seeking a longer multi-day pause in fighting while taking into account the Israeli demand that Hamas release at least 10 people for every day there is a break in the war, those familiar with the matter said on the condition of anonymity to detail sensitive discussions.

Crucially, Burns is pushing for the immediate release of American hostages held by Hamas. U.S. officials put the number of those hostages at eight or nine.

Should efforts to stop the fighting fail, the Biden administration has told Israel it must avoid “significant further displacement” and mass casualties among Palestinian civilians if it resumes the offensive, according to The Association Press. In addition, Israeli must operate with more precision in southern Gaza than it has in the north, according to U.S. officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.

Palestinians inspect the destruction caused by Israeli strikes on their homes in the village of Khuzaa, east of Khan Yunis near the border fence between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip on November 27, 2023. (Photo by SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images)

Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, told reporters Tuesday that the prevention of civilian harm has been a big topic of discussion between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

“Without getting into the specifics of the conversations, you’ve seen in the readouts that we’ve issued that that a topic of discussion between Secretary Austin and the Israeli Minister of Defense continues to be the importance of conducting operations in accordance with the law of armed conflict, protecting civilians and ensuring that aid does get into Gaza,” Ryder said. “And so that will continue to be a focus going forward. We certainly do not want to see innocent civilians being harmed or impacted to a greater extent than they have been already. And so that I’m sure will continue to be a focus of our conversation.”

During the ceasefire, the Pentagon has agreed not to fly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights over Gaza, Ryder added.

In addition, Ryder stated that more U.S. aid for Gaza arrived in Egypt today.

“Today, the United States airlifted 24.5 metric tons or more than 54,000 pounds of UN humanitarian supplies to provide vitally needed medical supplies, warm clothing and food and nutrition assistance to the people of Gaza,” he said. “The supplies were transported via a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft, and arrived today in Egypt, where they will be transported via ground into Gaza and then distributed by UN agencies. Additional flights are expected in the coming days. And this aid is in addition to the more than 500,000 pounds of food assistance delivered by the United States last week.”

In addition to the U.S. aid, more fuel and cooking gas was trucked into Gaza for humanitarian relief efforts through the Rafah crossing.

Speaking flawless Hebrew, Hamas’s military chief reportedly visited the hostages in one of the tunnels soon after they were taken captive, according to one of those released

“A chilling account has emerged from an abductee who recently returned from captivity in Gaza, shedding light on a face-to-face meeting with Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” Israel’s Channel 12 reported.

The incident took place in the early days of the conflict, where abductees were held in a tunnel.

According to the survivor’s testimony “Sinwar entered the tunnel and spoke to them in Hebrew without any discernible accent.” 

“Hello, I am Yahya Sinwar. You are the most protected here. Nothing will happen to you,” Sinwar told the group, according to the report.

Yahya Sinwar, head of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, visited hostages taken by his organization shortly after they were captured, according to Israel’s I24 news outlet. (Photo by Yousef Masoud/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan (D37) joined the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to participate in routine operations and conduct training events in the Mediterranean Sea, Nov. 16, the U.S. Sixth Fleet announced Tuesday.

“This combined effort enhanced Allies’ abilities to maintain agile, capable and flexible forces in the region,” it said in a media release. “Duncan, operating under the command of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, conducted a replenishment-at-sea with Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO 203) and an air defense exercise with the strike group ships.”

Pentagon spokesman Ryder said it remains unclear how many missiles were fired yesterday from Yemen in the vicinity of the destroyer USS Mason (DDG-87). The ship was concluding its response to a distress call from the M/V Central Park at the time. You can read more about that in our initial report here.

“Right now, our current analysis is that we know that there was at least one missile fired,” said Ryder. “We’re continuing to look into that, whether it was one or two, but we know that there was at least one missile. And we also at this point, assess that the vessels, the Mason and the Central Park, were not the intended targets. That said, I can’t speak for what the intended target was, and would have to refer you to the Houthi rebels to talk to that.”

Regardless of what the intended target was, this is just the latest incident involving U.S. warships in the region.

Last week, the destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116) shot down multiple drones on Thursday morning local time. This followed an incident earlier this month in which the same destroyer shot down a drone launched from Yemen over the Red Sea.

The Houthis also attacked commercial shipping, hijacking the M/S Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea, in an incident you can read all about here.

Ryder declined to offer specifics when asked if the U.S. was drawing up plans to respond to the Houthis.

“Well look when it when it comes to our forces, as I highlighted, we’re going to do whatever we need to do to ensure that they stay protected,” he said. “I’m not going to telegraph or forecast or speculate on any potential strikes that we might take in the region other than to say, we will do what’s necessary to protect our forces.”

This is a developing story. We will update it with any news to report about the Israel-Hamas war.

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Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard’s work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.