As the four-day truce between Israel and Hamas was expected to begin on Thursday, three doctors were killed and more health workers wounded in an attack on the eve of the ceasefire agreement which will enable aid in the besieged Gaza and the release of at least 50 Hamas hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.
The agreement reached after mediation by Qatar, has received mixed reactions around the world, with some seeing it as a sign of progress that could ease the suffering of civilians in Gaza and bring more Israeli hostages home.
Qatar said the International Committee of the Red Cross will work in Gaza to facilitate the release of the hostages.
They are expected to be transported through Egypt, the only country apart from Israel to share a border with Gaza. Israel has provided a list of about 300 Palestinian prisoners who might be released - double the number of women and minors it had agreed to be freed at first - and suggested it expects more than 50 hostages to be released under the deal.
The Palestinian Prisoners Society said that as of Wednesday, 7 200 prisoners were being held by Israel, among them 88 women and 250 children 17 and under.
During the truce, trucks loaded with aid and fuel are expected to cross into Gaza, where 2.3 million people have been running out of food and many hospitals have shut down, in part, because they no longer have fuel for their generators.
While Hamas has said throughout the truce its "fingers remain on the trigger", Israel has said the conflict will continue until all the hostages are freed and Hamas is eliminated.
Ahead of its announcement of the truce, two Doctors Without Borders (MSF) workers, Dr Mahmoud Abu Nujaila and Dr Ahmad Al Sahar, and their colleague Dr Ziad Al-Tatari, were killed following a strike on Al Awda Hospital, one of the last remaining functional hospitals in Northern Gaza.
“Dr Abu Nujaila and Dr Al Sahar were in the facility when it was hit on the third and the fourth floors. Other medical staff, including MSF staff were also severely injured. MSF has regularly shared information about Al Awda as a functioning hospital and the presence of its staff in Al Awda to warring parties. GPS coordinates were also shared with Israeli authorities on Wednesday.
“This is yet another incident that MSF staff have been subject to in the last few days. Our colleagues who are assisting hundreds of patients in Gaza are facing extremely difficult times in providing the little medical care they can. Seeing doctors killed next to hospital beds is beyond tragic, and this must stop now,” said the organisation.
Before the ceasefire, World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed that 108 United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) workers have been killed, the latest being Dima Alhaj who died alongside her six- month- old baby, her husband and two brothers.
“Multiple other family members sheltering in the same house were also killed.
“I have no words to describe our grief. This loss comes on top of other losses in the UN family since 7 October: 108 UNRWA colleagues have been killed.
This horror must end. All humanitarians and civilians must be protected, “ Ghebreyesus posted on X, previously Twitter.
On the ceasefire agreement, Ghebreyesus said the deal was not enough to end the suffering of civilians.
"We welcome the announcement of the Israel-Hamas agreement for 50 Israeli hostages to be released.
“My thoughts are with the families, some of whom my [WHO] colleagues and I met with in recent weeks. We also welcome the 4-day pause in fighting that will allow more aid to be safely delivered into Gaza.
“However, this is not enough to end the suffering of civilians," said Ghebreyesus.
WHO continued to call for the release of all hostages and a ceasefire to allow Gazans to receive "sustained, safe and scaled up support for recovery," he added.
Weighing in on the ceasefire, President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed the agreement reached.
“It is my hope that the achievement of this pause will strengthen efforts to achieve an outright end to the current conflict.
This pause, which regrettably implies a possible resumption of conflict at some point, must be accompanied by tireless efforts to secure a durable political resolution of the decades long challenge in the Middle East.
The people of Palestine, Israel and the nations of the region must work together with the international community to entrench the rights, peace and sustainable development of the Palestinian people as part of the multilaterally endorsed two-state solution.