Israel, Hamas Signal Hostage Deal Is Close


Israel and Hamas signaled on Tuesday that an agreement is nearing completion to release hostages held by the militants in Gaza, although details of the deal are uncertain.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reservists, “We are making progress. I don’t think it’s worth saying too much, not at even this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon.”

The head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Authority, Qaddoura Fares, said, “The prisoner exchange deal includes the release of 350 children and 82 Palestinian women” held by Israel.

U.S. President Joe Biden said, “We are very close to bringing these hostages home very soon,” but added, “I don’t want to get into the details because nothing is done until it’s done.”

For days, U.S. news accounts have said that about 50 women and children of the 240 people seized by Hamas militants during its surprise October 7 attack on Israel could be freed. In addition, a five-day pause in the fighting could be implemented but not a more definitive cease-fire that some world leaders have called for.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, citing a source involved in the negotiations, says Qatar, which has acted as an intermediary in the hostage release negotiations, will publish details of the deal on Tuesday.

The Qatari Foreign Ministry said talks have reached a “critical” and “final stage.”

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh described a truce deal with Israel on hostages as “close,” even as Israel continued its assault on Gaza in response to the militant group’s October attack on southern Israel.

Haniyeh made his comments in a statement, with the Reuters news agency reporting that negotiations were centered on the length of the truce, arrangements for aid delivery to Gaza and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Israel began its military campaign to wipe out Hamas after its fighters crossed into southern Israel in an October attack. Israel said 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken in the terror attack. Gaza health officials say more than 13,000 Palestinians, including 5,000 children, have been confirmed killed in Israel’s military retaliatory offensive in the Gaza Strip. 

Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two Israeli hostages were found near Shifa Hospital in Gaza since the war erupted. Shifa Hospital has been a focus of Israel’s search-and-destroy missions against Hamas militants.

Meanwhile, fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants was reported in an urban refugee camp near Gaza City as Israel expands its military operation in the territory.

Ambassador recalled

Israel recalled its ambassador to South Africa for consultations before the South African parliament voted overwhelmingly to close the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria.

South Africa recently referred Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over alleged Israeli war crimes. The Pretoria government is one of the most vocal international supporters of Palestinians.

South Africa on Tuesday hosted a virtual meeting of BRICS emerging economies to discuss the war in Gaza. Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is a BRICS member, joined the talks via video conference.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the conference that an “international peace conference” should be called to resolve the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

“There can be no sustainable peace and security in the Middle East without a just solution to the question of Palestine,” Xi said, speaking through an interpreter.

“China calls for an early convening of an international peace conference that is more authoritative to build international consensus for peace,” he said. 

Fighting around hospital

On Monday, heavy fighting erupted around the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza as Israel pressed on with its offensive against Hamas militants.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said at least 12 people were killed Monday when a shell hit the second floor of the hospital. Israel’s military says troops outside the hospital fired back at fighters within the facility but added that no shells were fired directly at the hospital.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi condemned the attack and blamed Israel.

“Indonesia strongly condemns the Israeli attack on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza that killed a number of civilians,” she said in a statement. “The attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. All countries, especially those with close ties to Israel, must use all their influence and capabilities, to urge Israel to stop its atrocities.”

About 600 patients, 200 health care workers and 2,000 displaced people from the Indonesian Hospital are now sheltering in southern Gaza, Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said. “The [Israeli] occupation aims to evacuate the hospital, as it did in Shifa” in Gaza City, he said.

Trucks with medical equipment

Some relief for Gaza’s collapsing health system arrived Monday. Dozens of trucks entered the territory from Egypt with equipment from Jordan to set up a field hospital. Jordan’s state-run media said the new facility in the southern town of Khan Younis would be operating within 48 hours.

In addition, Israel says it is starting to allow about 70,000 liters of fuel each day into Gaza from Egypt, an amount that is far short of the minimum requirements for essential humanitarian operations. But it will help support food distribution and the operation of generators at hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, shelters and other critical services.

VOA’s Eva Mazrieva, Kate Bartlett and Cindy Saine contributed to this report. 


The VOA is the Voice of America

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *