Image courtesy of CNBC
By Patrick D. Lewis
After a seven-day truce that saw over 70 Israeli and over 25 foreign hostages released by Hamas in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinians being held prisoner by the Israeli government and the entrance of almost 3,000 aid trucks to Gaza, the two sides failed to reach a second agreement to extend the ceasefire on December 1.
Both Israel and Hamas blamed the other for the failure of negotiations, mediated by Qatar, that aimed to continue the ceasefire.
Israel has previously indicated that they were willing to continue the truce if Hamas released at least 10 hostages per day, something Hamas also said they were willing to do.
However, Israeli officials ultimately said that they did not receive a list of hostages to be released by midnight on December 1, which they required to extend the truce, and hostilities resumed.
Meanwhile, Hamas said that Israeli forces began attacking them at midnight and later said that they would release no more hostages unless Israel withdrew from Gaza, something that is very unlikely to happen.
It is difficult to assess which claims regarding resumption of hostilities are true and it is possible that both sides resumed fighting at roughly the same time.
Regardless, a new truce is not expected to be reached in the near future. Israel even withdrew its diplomatic staff from the ceasefire talks in Qatar, saying they saw no prospects for success.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF), in a statement posted to X (formerly Twitter) on December 1, said that Hamas had broken the ceasefire and resumed fighting. Since resuming combat, the IAF said they had struck over 200 Hamas targets in addition to strikes by their sister forces, the Israeli Navy and Israeli Ground Forces.
The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that other groups aligned with Hamas, such as militia groups, independent terrorist cells, and the most potent Hamas-allied group, Lebanese Hezbollah, all resumed indirect small arms and rocket attacks on Israel as well. The Hamas-run Ministry of Health said that over 200 people were killed or injured on December 1.
The temporary pause gave both Israel and Hamas chances to perfect their plans, bring up reinforcement and supplies, and reposition their forces.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) spokespeople have repeatedly said that they are beginning a “second phase” of the conflict and have commenced a “powerful ground operation” in Gaza.
The assault on Gaza City, one of the most densely-populated places in the world, is likely to be bloody for both sides of the conflict, and even more so for civilians. It will take weeks to months to accomplish in a house-to-house style search of the city as well as block-to-block fighting, common in dense urban fighting. For reference, the city is home to nearly as many people as Detroit, but only covers about 12% as much land.
Hamas, meanwhile, is still primarily on the defensive but has had a week to improve those defenses, evacuate wounded personnel, reinforce and resupply their combatants, and gather intelligence. ISW has observed more sophisticated, complex Hamas operations, likely a result of the time they had during the ceasefire.
The war also continues to have impacts beyond the battlefield in Israel and Palestine. On December 3, the USS Carney, a U.S. Navy destroyer on station in the Red Sea, detected a ballistic missile launch and responded to a call for help from a British-owned cargo ship nearby. Over the course of the day, the Carney responded to a total of three distress calls from cargo ships that had been hit by missiles fired by Houthi terrorists in Houthi-control parts of war-torn Yemen. The Houthis, just like Hamas, are backed by the Iranian regime. All three ships reported minor damage and no injuries. The Carney also came under attack by drones and missiles, shooting them all down, said the U.S. Central Command.