International Desk : Israel and Hamas begin a four-day truce today with the militants to release a first group of 13 Israeli women and child hostages later in the day.
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The truce is due to start at 7am and involve a comprehensive ceasefire in north and south Gaza, followed by the release of some of the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas during the Iran-backed Islamists' October 7 attack inside Israel, mediators in Qatar said.
But fighting raged on in the hours leading up to the truce, with officials inside the Hamas-ruled enclave saying a hospital in Gaza City was among the targets bombed. Both sides also signalled the pause would be temporary before fighting resumes.
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Qatar's foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said additional aid would start flowing into Gaza and the first hostages including elderly women would be freed at 4 pm (1400 GMT), with the total number rising to 50 over the four days.
Egypt said 130,000 litres of diesel and four trucks of gas will be delivered daily to Gaza when the truce starts, and that 200 trucks of aid would enter Gaza daily.
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Palestinians were expected to be released from Israeli jails, the Qatari spokesperson told reporters. "We all hope that this truce will lead to a chance to start a wider work to achieve a permanent truce."
Hamas confirmed on its Telegram channel that all hostilities from its forces would cease.
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But Abu Ubaida, spokesperson for Hamas' armed wing, later referred to "this temporary truce" in a video message that called for an "escalation of the confrontation with (Israel) on all resistance fronts", including the Israeli-occupied West Bank where violence has surged since the Gaza war erupted almost seven weeks ago.
Israel's military said its troops would stay behind a ceasefire line inside Gaza, without giving details of its position.
"These will be complicated days and nothing is certain," Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said.
Read more : 70 killed in Gaza air strikes
"Control over northern Gaza is the first step of a long war, and we are preparing for the next stages," he added. Israel had received an initial list of hostages to be freed and was in touch with families, the prime minister's office said.
Israel launched its devastating invasion of Gaza after gunmen from Hamas burst across the border fence on October 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing about 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, Israel has rained bombs on the tiny enclave, killing some 14,000 Gazans, around 40% of them children, according to Palestinian health authorities.
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