Hamas says Gaza truce deal ‘close’

Hamas says Gaza truce deal ‘close’
A flare fired by the Israeli military flies over Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, on November 20, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 21 November 2023
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Hamas says Gaza truce deal ‘close’

Hamas says Gaza truce deal ‘close’
  • Negotiators have tried to pin down a deal to free some of the estimated 240 hostages
  • Only a handful of those taken have been released, or their bodies have been recovered

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday a truce agreement with Israel was in sight, raising hopes that his militant group could soon release dozens of people taken hostage in the October 7 attacks.

“We are close to reaching a deal on a truce,” Haniyeh said, according to a statement sent by his office.

For weeks, as the war in Gaza has raged, negotiators have tried to pin down a deal to free some of the estimated 240 hostages held by Palestinian militants.

The majority of the hostages taken during Hamas’s brutal assault last month are Israeli civilians, some of them young children and elderly people.

Only a handful of those taken have been released, freed by Israeli ground troops, or their bodies have been recovered.

The precise whereabouts of the rest are not publicly known, although they are believed to be held in Gaza, where Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in retaliation for the deadliest attack in its history.

Hamas killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, during its horrific October 7 raids.

According to the Hamas government in Gaza, the war has killed more than 13,300 people, thousands of them children.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad — a separate Palestinian militant group that also took part in the October 7 attacks — confirmed that their movements had agreed to the terms of a truce deal.

The tentative deal includes a five-day truce, comprised of a cease-fire on the ground and limits to Israeli air operations over southern Gaza.

In return, between 50 and 100 people held by the Palestinian militant groups would be released.

They would include Israeli civilians and people of other nationalities, but no military personnel.

Under the proposed deal, some 300 Palestinians, among them women and children, would also be released from Israeli jails.

On Monday, US President Joe Biden had said he believed a deal to free the hostages was close, as hopes grew for talks brokered by Qatar, where Hamas has a political office and which has behind-the-scenes diplomatic links with Israel.

Separately, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday that its president had traveled to Qatar to meet Hamas’s Haniyeh “to advance humanitarian issues related to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza.”

As well as spelling the release of hostages, the agreement could bring respite for Gazans who have lived for more than six weeks under Israel bombardment and an expanding ground offensive.

Large parts of Gaza have been destroyed by air strikes that have numbered in the thousands, and the territory is under siege, with minimal food, water and fuel allowed to enter.

According to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources, the deal would also allow for up to 300 trucks of food and medical aid to enter Gaza.

Israel has been wary of allowing fuel into the strip for fear it could be used by Hamas in rockets or for other paramilitary means.

Israel has vowed to press ahead with its offensive, pledging to crush Hamas and ensure the hostages are released.

“We will not stop fighting until we bring our hostages home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared after meeting relatives of those abducted.

In Gaza, medics and patients were again caught on the front line on Tuesday, as Israel expanded its operation across the north of the territory.

Officials in the Hamas-run health ministry said Israel struck the Indonesian Hospital on Monday, killing 12 people, before moving in ground forces.

“The Israeli army is laying siege to the Indonesian Hospital,” ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra said.

The Hamas government said dozens of tanks and armored vehicles were deployed around the outskirts of the hospital and were firing toward the facility.

“We fear the same thing will happen there as it did in Al-Shifa,” Qudra added, referring to Gaza’s largest hospital which has been besieged and scoured by Israeli troops.

Twenty-eight premature babies were evacuated from Al-Shifa to Egypt on Monday.

The Indonesian Hospital sits on the fringe of Gaza’s largest refugee camp Jabalia, which has become a new focus for the war and has been the scene of intense Israeli bombing in recent days.

The health ministry official stated there still were about 400 patients inside the hospital, as well as 2,000 people seeking shelter.

Around 200 people were evacuated from the hospital on Monday and bused to the relative safety of a hospital in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

At the Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, an AFP reporter witnessed bloodied children being carried into the facility and lying dazed on gurneys as chaos swirled around them.

“We miraculously got out,” said one man who said he escaped the Indonesian Hospital. “We still have brothers there. I just can’t...” he said, his voice trailing off.

Israel says Hamas uses medical facilities to hide fighters and as the base for operations, making them legitimate military objectives — while insisting it does everything possible to limit harm to civilians.

But a fierce international backlash has only grown in recent weeks, with protests erupting across the world, international agencies laying allegations of war crimes and some governments breaking diplomatic ties with Israel.

The World Health Organization said it was “appalled” by Monday’s strike on the Indonesian Hospital and reported it was just one of 164 documented attacks on health facilities and workers since the war began.

“The world cannot stand silent while these hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair,” the organization said in a statement.

The Indonesian Hospital was opened almost a decade ago, and was funded by donations from Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Monday “strongly condemned the Israeli attack” on the hospital and described it a “clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

Marsudi added that the ministry had not been able to contact three Indonesian volunteers believed to have been working at the hospital.


Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says

Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says
Updated 47 min 17 sec ago
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Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says

Gaza war death toll at 29,878, Hamas-run health ministry says
  • Death toll includes at least 96 deaths in the past 24 hours

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Tuesday that at least 29,878 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory during the war between militants and Israel.
The toll includes at least 96 deaths in the past 24 hours, while 70,215 people have been wounded since the conflict began on October 7, a ministry statement said.


Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base
Updated 27 February 2024
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Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base

Hezbollah fires rocket salvo at Israeli base
  • The rocket fire was in response to Israel’s first strikes of the war on eastern Lebanon

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah said it launched a salvo of rockets at an Israeli air control base on Tuesday in retaliation for deadly Israeli strikes on east Lebanon.
Hamas ally Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since the Gaza war erupted in October, but strikes have been largely restricted to the border area.
Hezbollah said it targeted the “Meron air control base... with a large salvo of rockets from several launchers.”
It said the rocket fire was in response to Israel’s first strikes of the war on eastern Lebanon.
Israel struck Hezbollah targets near the city of Baalbek, killing two of its fighters, security sources said. The Israeli army said it targeted Hezbollah air defenses after the group downed one of its drones.
In retaliation, Hezbollah already fired 60 rockets at an Israeli base in the annexed Golah Heights on Monday.
Cross-border exchanges since October have killed at least 284 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.


Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal

Israeli team in Qatar in last push for Gaza peace deal
  • Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce

JEDDAH: A high-level Israeli delegation arrived on Monday in Qatar, where political leaders of Hamas are based, as the combatants in the Gaza war closed in on a ceasefire and hostage deal that the US says is now within reach.
The presence of both sides suggested talks were further along than at any time since a big push at the start of February, when Israel rejected a Hamas proposal as “delusional.”
In public, both sides continue to blame each other. Israel says it will agree only to a temporary pause in fighting to secure the release of hostages. Hamas says it will not free them without a permanent end to the war.
After meeting Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had embraced mediators’ efforts to find an end to the war, and accused Israel of stalling while Gazans die under siege. “We will not allow the enemy to use negotiations as a cover for this crime,” he said.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said any ceasefire agreement would require “securing an end to the aggression, the withdrawal of the occupation, the returning of the displaced, the entry of aid, shelter equipment, and rebuilding.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready for a deal, and it was up to Hamas to drop demands he described as “outlandish” and “from another planet.”
Israel is under pressure from the US to agree on a truce to prevent a threatened assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.


Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says
Updated 27 February 2024
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Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in West Bank clashes, WAFA says

CAIRO: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in clashes in the occupied West Bank early on Tuesday, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
At least 400 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen.


At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile

At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile
Updated 27 February 2024
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At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile

At least 10 killed after ferry sinks in Egypt’s Nile
  • Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta

CAIRO: A ferry carrying day laborers sank in the Nile just outside the Egyptian capital, killing at least 10 of the 15 people on board, authorities said Monday.
The five who survived were transported to a hospital and later discharged, the Ministry of Manpower said in a statement. The cause of the sinking was not made immediately clear.
The ministry allocated compensation of 200,000 Egyptian pounds (around $6,466) to each family of the deceased and 20,000 ($646) to each of the five injured.
The laborers were on their way to work at a local construction firm. It took rescue teams hours to recover the bodies, according to local media which aired live-stream videos on social media platforms showing divers searching for the dead as villagers waited on the Nile banks.
The incident took place in the town of Monshat el-Kanater in Giza, which is one of three provinces forming Greater Cairo.
Many Egyptians make their way using boats on a daily basis, especially in Upper Egypt and the Nile Delta. Sailing along the Nile is also a favorite pastime during holidays in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Ferry, railway and road accidents are common in Egypt mainly because of poor maintenance and the lack of regulations.
In 2022, two people died and eight went missing after a small truck they were riding in slid off a ferry and plunged into the Nile. And in 2015, 35 people died in a collision between a passenger boat and a scow on the Nile.