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Israel has approved an agreement with the Hamas Movement that includes a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners after facing political and military pressure on several fronts.
In a pivotal vote early on November 22 morning, Israel’s cabinet approved the agreement to secure the release of roughly 50 hostages who were abducted into Gaza during Hamas’s October 7 surprise attack.
The hostages, mostly women and children, will be released in groups of 12-13 people per day. In exchange Israel will release 150-300 Palestinian women and minors from prison and return them to where they used to live, mostly the West Bank and East Jerusalem, pause fighting for four days and allow the entry of more fuel to the Strip.
In addition, there will be six hours a day when the Israeli military will not be allowed to use drones to gather intelligence on activities in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the war against Hamas in Gaza will continue until all of Israel’s goals are achieved. However, the deal was widely seen as a blow to Israeli war efforts and a win for Hamas.
Israeli ground operations in northern Gaza slowed down in the days leading to the deal and the death toll of troops increased by nearly two dozens, reaching 69 on November 22.
During the same period Israel faced more pressure on other fronts. Hezbollah increased its attacks from southern Lebanon, using more destructive weapons, like heavy rockets and suicide drones. Meanwhile, the Houthis in Yemen de-facto closed the Bab-el-Mandeb strait in the face of Israeli ships after seizing an Israeli-owned car-carrier on November 19.
Attacks on United States bases in Syria and Iraq also increased, reaching 66 by November 21. This led to more pressure from Washington on Israel.
The U.S.has been growing tired of supporting Israel’s war on Gaza, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 14,000 Palestinains, on top of its endless military aid to Ukraine. Hebrew media reports suggest that the Israelis are worried that Washington could push for an extension of the temporary ceasefire in Gaza, or even for a permanent one. Such a development would mark an unprecedented defeat for Israel.
In addition, countries like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey have been getting more vocal with their criticism of the war on Gaza, mounting even more pressure on Israel and rising the threat of an all-out regional conflict.
In face of this political and military pressure from foes and allies alike, Israel appears to be running out of options. The Israeli case for a complete war against Gaza is falling apart. Still, Netanyahu could take the risk of prolonging the war in order to save his collapsing government.