Hamas renews rocket fire, Israel responds as pause in fighting ends 

Hamas renewed rocket fire on Israel just before 06:00 local time on Friday, December 1, ending a pause in fighting that had held for one week. The Israel Defense Forces said the Iron Dome air defense system had been activated to intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, and Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza soon after the rocket launch began. 

The pause in fighting began on November 24 after fifty days of war following Hamas’ October 7 attack in Israel that killed more than 1,200. In a month and a half of fighting, almost 400 IDF soldiers were killed. Hamas casualties are less clear, but Israel has estimated that ten Hamas battalions had been engaged in the fighting and that several of them suffered heavy losses in the conflict. Three Israeli IDF divisions have operated in Gaza, cutting off northern Gaza from the south and surrounding Hamas forces in Gaza City. When the pause in fighting began, this situation did not change, and IDF units remained where they were. Israel had enabled humanitarian access to Gaza City via the Salah al-Din road, which runs from southern Gaza to the north. 

The pause in fighting involved a deal for fifty hostages to be released by Hamas in exchange for 150 prisoners released by Israel. Each day that the pause continued was supposed to see ten more hostages freed in exchange for thirty prisoners. Hamas often delayed the hostage releases and also added to the numbers released by releasing seventeen Thai citizens and one Filipino it had kidnapped on October 7. It also released several people who held dual Israeli-Russian citizenship as a “gesture” to Moscow. Russia has yet to condemn Hamas’ October 7 attack.  

Hamas held 240 hostages on the eve of the pause and is estimated to still hold at least 137 as of December 1. It continues to hold citizens from countries other than Israel, such as those who hold citizenship in Thailand, the Philippines, Tanzania, and other countries. At the center of the dispute over extending the pause and releasing hostages is the Bibas family of two children and their parents. Hamas has claimed that the children and their mother were killed, and they released a video of the father on November 30.  

On December 1, Hamas claimed that “throughout the night, indirect negotiations unfolded to extend the truce, within which we proposed exchanges involving prisoners and elderly people, as well as the handover of bodies of Israeli detainees who lost their lives… Hamas also offered to transfer the Bibas family’s bodies and release their father for their burial.” 

On Friday morning after fighting resumed, the IDF published a map of Gaza divided into regions that the IDF said would enable civilians to seek safety as fighting progresses in the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF said that “the terrorist organization Hamas uses the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields, placing its command and military infrastructure in residential areas, hospitals, mosques, and schools. Hamas turns civilian sites into military targets while using civilians and civilian facilities as a human shield.” Further, the IDF noted that “in preparation for the next stage of the war, the IDF is publishing the Evacuation Zone Map in the Gaza Strip. This divides the territory of the Gaza Strip into areas according to recognizable areas to enable the residents of Gaza to orient themselves and understand the instructions, and to evacuate from specific places for their safety if required.” 

By the afternoon of December 1, the IDF said it had struck 200 targets in Gaza. This is on top of the 15,000 struck during the first month and a half of the war. Meanwhile, Hamas rocket fire and attacks targeted areas in Israel near the Gaza border throughout most of Friday. After sunset, one large barrage targeted areas in central Israel. 

Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited Israel’s Tel Nof air base and flew in a helicopter over Gaza. He spoke with IDF commanders from one of the divisions in northern Gaza. “I watched the powerful strikes from within an IAF attack helicopter flying over the Gaza Strip. Just as I said from the very first day [of the war], I now reiterate – the Hamas terrorist organization only responds to force,” he said, according to a statement from the Defense Minister’s spokesperson. “We will continue striking Hamas until we achieve the goals of this war – the destruction of the Hamas terrorist organization – removing its governing and military capabilities, and returning the hostages home,” he said. 

There was an uptick in cross-border activity in northern Israel, where Hezbollah had previously refrained from attacks during the pause in fighting. One drone was intercepted, and the IDF said that “a number of launches were identified crossing from Lebanon toward IDF posts in the area of Rosh HaNikra and Margaliot, as well as toward the city of Kiryat Shmona.” The IDF responded to the attacks with airstrikes against Hezbollah targets.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited the United Arab Emirates on Friday to attend the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP) — an important step for Israel, whose leaders have not traveled abroad since the October 7 attack. President Herzog’s office said that the trip centered around “ongoing efforts to secure the release of all the hostages held by Hamas.” He met with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Despite Israel and Qatar not having official ties, Doha played a role in mediating between Hamas and Israel regarding the pause in fighting and hostage deal. Herzog also met with Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In these meetings, he condemned Hamas’ October 7 attack and stressed Israel’s right to defend itself.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 

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