Residents of the Gaza Strip greeted the news of a temporary cease-fire with mixed emotions on Wednesday, expressing hope for a respite in Israel’s relentless bombardment but concern that the brief pause did not mean an end to the war.
“There’s a little bit of relief,” Ahmed Nassar, a 27-year-old taxi driver, said in a phone interview, adding that he hoped the deal would not fall through. “God willing, at midnight we will see it.”
The start of the cease-fire — which would allow for the release of 50 hostages held in Gaza and 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel — was to be announced within 24 hours and last for at least four days, said the government of Qatar, which helped lead the negotiations. The pause in fighting would also allow the delivery of more aid and fuel for civilians in Gaza, Qatar said.
Mr. Nassar, who fled his northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabaliya and is now living in the central part of the strip, said the deal raised the prospect that a longer cease-fire could come in the next few weeks, which could allow his family to go back and check on their home.
But Israeli officials have signaled that the war aimed at eradicating Hamas, which rules Gaza, will go on. For now, they have said, the 1.7 million Palestinians displaced by the fighting will not be allowed to return to their homes during the pause.
The four-day pause is “not guaranteeing the end of the military operations in the Gaza Strip,” said Bisan Owda, who has been documenting the war on social media. “This period is not enough to pull the dead bodies from under the rubble and bury them, to search for the missing people, to open the roads, to treat the injured.”
Gazan health authorities say that more than 12,000 people have been killed since the start of Israel’s retaliation against Hamas for the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks that killed about 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli officials. Most of the 1.7 million displaced people fled homes in the north of the territory and evacuated to the south following repeated Israeli orders.
“I want to go home,” Hind Khoudary, a freelance journalist who stayed behind to document the war after her family evacuated from the strip, said on Instagram. A temporary pause “without going home is meaningless,” she added.
Firas Al-Derby, 17, who is sheltering with his parents at an overcrowded United Nations-run school in the south, said he did not hear the news of the cease-fire and prisoner exchange because of spotty communication networks in Gaza. When a reporter for The New York Times told him over the phone about the agreement that was reached overnight, he sounded underwhelmed. The news meant little to his mother, Hanan, who is ill with cancer and has been unable to continue her treatment after Gaza’s only cancer hospital went out of service last month.
“You think my mom would be happy over a temporary cease-fire?” he said. “The only thing that would make her happy now is to be able to continue her cancer treatment.”
The mood at the school on Wednesday morning was not celebratory, he said, because the pause is not meant to last.
“This deal is not a truce,” he said. “It’s resting time for the soldiers.”