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Hamas leader says deal to release some hostages could be reached soon: NPR

This photo taken from southern Israel, near the border with the Gaza Strip, shows smoke billowing following an Israeli strike on the Palestinian territory on Tuesday, amid ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas.

John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

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John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

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This photo taken from southern Israel, near the border with the Gaza Strip, shows smoke billowing following an Israeli strike on the Palestinian territory on Tuesday, amid ongoing fighting between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas.

John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images

The head of Hamas’ political wing said Tuesday that the militant group had “given its response” to mediators in Qatar and was “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel more than six weeks after its Gaza-based fighters launched a massive offensive. cross-border attack that killed some 1,200 Israelis and took around 240 hostages.

The statement by Doha-based Ismail Haniyeh, posted on social media, follows days of negotiations over a possible deal. Details of a possible deal have not yet been officially released. However, Arab and Israeli media cited anonymous sources suggesting that this would involve a pause in Israeli strikes in Gaza and the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas releasing some of the hostages it captured during of its October 7 attack on Israel.

President Biden, asked by reporters at the White House on Monday whether a deal was close, replied “I believe so.”

Israel’s Channel 12 on Tuesday quoted an unnamed senior Israeli government official as saying that “we are very close to a deal” for at least 50 hostages, but said there were still technical issues to be resolved before such a agreement can be implemented. According to the television report, among the hostages who will be released are children, their mothers and other women.

Nearly 13,000 people have been killed in Hamas-run Gaza since the start of the war, according to Palestinian officials.

Public support for a deal in Israel grew and large protests took place in support of the hostages, increasing pressure on Netanyahu’s government to secure their release.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement Monday that its president, Mirjana Spoljaric, met with Haniyeh in Qatar, calling for “the immediate release of the hostages.”

“The ICRC insists that our teams be allowed to visit the hostages to check their health and deliver medicine, and for the hostages to be able to communicate with their families,” the humanitarian organization said, adding that in as a humanitarian intermediary, she “does not participate in the negotiations leading to the release of the hostages”.

Meanwhile, fighting continued around a hospital in northern Gaza that was hit by a shell on Monday, killing at least 12 people according to the Gaza Health Ministry. NPR was unable to independently verify the number of casualties at the Indonesian hospital. The Israeli army says its forces came under fire from inside the hospital and returned fire, but “no shells were fired towards the hospital.”

Israel, which insists Gaza hospitals are used by Hamas as secret command posts, has received international criticism for attacks that hit medical facilities.

Speaking to NPR, Medhat Abbas, a doctor at the Indonesian hospital, said about 120 people were evacuated from the facility to Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza. Gaza’s health ministry says at least 500 injured people and more than 2,000 displaced Gaza residents remain trapped inside. A ministry spokesperson said the occupancy rate of hospitals in Gaza has reached 190%.

In a situation report released Tuesday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Monday’s attack on the Indonesian hospital marked the fifth time the facility had been hit since hostilities began .

“This health facility is experiencing a power outage due to lack of fuel and is also facing severe shortages of water, medicines and essential supplies.”

Earlier this week, the Israeli military released a video that it said proved Hamas had used Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, as a secret base. Al-Shifa was severely damaged and its electricity was cut during Israeli operations to seize the facility. On Monday, 28 premature newborns were evacuated from Al-Shifa and transported to Egyptian hospitals for treatment.

In a post onformerly Twitter, the United Nations World Food Program said Tuesday that Gaza’s 2.2 million residents are in urgent need of food aid.

“Existing food systems are collapsing and to reach those in need, WFP and its partners need increased access and resources such as fuel, gas and connectivity. To make a real impact, we We need to end the hostilities.”

Last week, the United Nations World Food Program warned that Gaza was facing widespread famine as a result of the conflict. “(Nearly) the entire population is in desperate need of food assistance,” he said in a statement.

“With winter fast approaching, unsafe and overcrowded shelters and lack of clean water, civilians face immediate risk of starvation,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain, adding that the needs of the people of Gaza could not be adequately met with a single border. crossing to Rafah, Egypt.

“The only hope is to open another safe passage (crossing) for humanitarian access to deliver vital food to Gaza,” McCain said.

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