The leader of Hamas said on Tuesday that a truce agreement with Israel was close, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped for good news soon about hostages, the most optimistic signals so far of a deal to pause fighting and free captives.
Hamas officials were “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel and the group has delivered its response to Qatari mediators, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement sent to Reuters by his aide.
Netanyahu said: “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”, according to remarks released by the Israeli prime minister’s office.
Netanyahu would convene his war cabinet “in light of developments in the matter of the release of our hostages”, his office said, followed by meetings of his wider security cabinet and the full cabinet.
A source briefed on the negotiations told Reuters the long-awaited agreement, which would see the first truce of the war and the first mass release of those held by both sides, was in its “final stages” and “closer than it has ever been”.
That was echoed by a US official who said it was the “closest we’ve been” to a hostage deal.
The deal, as described by the first source, envisages the release of around 50 civilian hostages by Hamas and of female and minor-aged Palestinian detainees from Israeli custody, as well as a multi-day pause in fighting.
A Hamas official told Al Jazeera TV that negotiations were centred on how long the truce would last, arrangements for delivery of aid into Gaza and details of the exchange of captives. Both sides would free women and children, and details would be announced by Qatar, which is mediating in the negotiations, said the official, Issat el Reshiq. Israel’s Channel 12 and Channel 13 TV stations both quoted unidentified officials as saying terms of a deal could be reached “within hours”.
Hamas took about 240 hostages during its Oct. 7 rampage into Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met Haniyeh in Qatar on Monday to “advance humanitarian issues” related to the conflict, the Geneva-based ICRC said in a statement. She also separately met Qatari authorities.
The ICRC said it was not part of negotiations aimed at releasing the hostages, but as a neutral intermediary it was ready “to facilitate any future release that the parties agree to”.
20 reported dead in Nuseirat strike
Gaza health authorities said on Tuesday at least 20 Palestinians were killed in Israeli bombing of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza at midnight. There was no immediate comment from Israel.
The already crowded Nuseirat district, which grew out of a camp for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Israeli-Arab war, is just south of the wetlands that bisect the strip and has been the arrival point for huge numbers escaping the fighting further north.
Tens of thousands of civilians are believed to remain in the north despite an Israeli order to flee. All hospitals there have ceased functioning normally, though many are still housing patients and displaced Gazans. Israel says Hamas uses hospitals as shields for its fighters, which Hamas and the hospitals deny.
The World Health Organization said on Tuesday three hospitals in Israeli-besieged northern Gaza had requested help with evacuating patients and that planning for that was under way, expressing regret that doing so would rob people of a lifeline.
Hospitals have come under bombardment in the Israel-Hamas conflict and all hospitals in the northern part of the enclave have effectively ceased functioning normally, although they continue to house some patients that could not flee and displaced Gazans.
“We’re looking at three hospitals right now in the north that asked to be evacuated but the important point is where to? There is no safe space,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva press briefing, saying that southern hospitals were already full and suffering shortages.
He said the requests came from hospital staff who feared for their lives.
“That means the situation on the ground has grown so dire that the only other alternative is facing what they think is certain death as the hospitals are under attack …,” he said.
“Taking away healthcare from people, is taking away the last resort, it’s taking away the last piece of humanity. And that’s what is happening right now.”
The three hospitals were Al Shifa, from which a group of babies has already been rescued, Indonesian Hospital and Al Ahli Hospital, he said. “So far it’s only in planning stages with no further details,” he added, saying it required close coordination with parties to the conflict to ensure the convoy does not come under fire as happened to the International Red Cross and French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.
At the same briefing, the UN children’s agency (Unicef) warned of the risk of “mass disease outbreak” that could cause child death rates to mount in the densely populated enclave where thousands of people are crammed into overcrowded shelters.
“If children’s access to water and sanitation in Gaza continue to be restricted and insufficient, we will see a tragic – yet entirely avoidable – surge in the number of children dying,” said Unicef spokesperson James Elder.
Already, cases of diarrhoea in children under five years old have surged to 10 times the pre-conflict monthly average, he said.
The World Food Programme’s Arif Husain said that people in Gaza were receiving just 1-3 litres of water a day, far below international standards for emergencies. No bottled water has arrived for displaced people in northern Gaza for over a week, he said, raising serious concerns about dehydration
EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email [email protected] Follow our WhatsApp verified Channel