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TEL AVIV — A four-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza went into effect early Friday, according to reports from the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation. The temporary truce sets the stage for the first exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners in the nearly seven-week conflict.
The agreement officially went into effect at 7 a.m. local time, but there was no official announcement from either Israel or Hamas to signal its start. It comes after weeks of Israeli bombardment of Gaza that has killed more than 12,000 Palestinians.
Under the deal brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, later Friday Hamas will release some of the 240 hostages seized in their deadly attack on Israel Oct. 7. In return, Israel will free some of the Palestinian prisoners it holds.
In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces says it “has completed … operational preparations according to the combat lines of the pause,” adding that it had destroyed a tunnel complex it identified earlier this week under Gaza’s largest hospital.
“Over the last day and night, IDF troops on the ground, in the air, and at sea continued to strike terror targets, operate in different areas to locate suspicious structures and engage with terrorists,” the military’s statement said. “In addition, the forces struck a terror tunnel route, which was identified over the past few days.”
With the anticipated pause in the fighting, crowds of Palestinians were seen pouring into the streets in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. But Palestinian media reported several Israeli strikes in northern Gaza in the hours leading up to the cease-fire. Also, about 15 minutes after the truce was supposed to start, Israel’s army reported air raid sirens near the border with Gaza, a possible sign of rockets being fired into Israel.
Following last month’s Hamas attacks, Israel vowed to destroy the militant group and responded with heavy air and ground strikes on Gaza. Israel now controls a large portion of Gaza’s north.