Qatar said Tuesday that an agreement was very close for the release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in exchange for a truce in the Palestinian territory where the Israeli army is relentlessly continuing its offensive against the Islamist movement.
What there is to know
- Negotiators working to free Hamas hostages have never been closer to an agreement, Qatar says;
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met relatives of the hostages on Monday evening, pledged to recover them;
- UNICEF has warned that a real health tragedy is looming in the Gaza Strip, due to the lack of fuel and water;
- According to Hamas, the Indonesian hospital is still besieged by Israeli tanks, 700 people are trapped there and 50 dead lie in front of the establishment;
- Two journalists and two other civilians were killed Tuesday in southern Lebanon in Israeli strikes.
Negotiators have “never been closer to an agreement”, according to Qatar, which is working with the United States and Egypt to try to free hostages kidnapped in Israel by Hamas, in power in the Strip. Gaza, during its deadly attack on October 7, in particular in exchange for a truce in the fighting.
Negotiations have reached the “final stage”, said a representative of the Gulf emirate.
The Israeli military estimates that around 240 hostages were taken by Hamas to Gaza.
“We are getting closer to concluding a truce agreement,” Ismail Haniyeh, the Qatar-based Hamas leader, said earlier.
According to sources within Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed Islamist group, the two movements have accepted an agreement, the details of which must be announced by Qatar and the other mediators.
The Israeli government did not react to these statements.
For a month and a half, the hostages’ relatives have been living in anguish and calling on the Israeli government for increased efforts to free them, while the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, refuses any ceasefire without releasing the hostages.
International organizations and many foreign capitals are increasing calls for a ceasefire or truce in the face of the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the small besieged territory, where the war has destroyed entire neighborhoods, devastated the health system and resulted in massive population movements.
A health “tragedy” is looming in the Gaza Strip, where water is “cruelly lacking” and where the shortage of fuel risks causing “the collapse of sanitation services”, the United Nations Fund warned again on Tuesday for children (UNICEF).
The army, which continues its advance in the north of the Gaza Strip, announced that it had surrounded the Palestinian refugee camp of Jabaliya, the largest in the territory located at the gates of Gaza City, where there has been a concentration for several weeks the bulk of the Israeli offensive.
Any final details?
In Israel, 1,200 people, the vast majority civilians, were killed, according to the authorities, in the attack carried out by Hamas commandos infiltrated from the Gaza Strip, of an unprecedented scale and violence in the history of the country.
In retaliation, Israel has vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, and has relentlessly shelled the Palestinian territory, where its army has been leading a ground offensive since October 27.
In the Gaza Strip, more than 13,300 people were killed in Israeli bombings, including more than 5,600 children, according to the Hamas government.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric, met Monday evening with leaders of Qatar as well as Mr. Haniyeh, in order to “advance on humanitarian issues linked to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza” .
Although the ICRC assured that it would not participate in the talks, it insisted that its “teams be authorized to visit the hostages”.
“We have never been so close, we are confident. But there is still work to do. Nothing is done until everything is done,” said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Two sources close to the matter told AFP on Tuesday that the talks focused on an agreement providing for the release of “50 to 100” hostages in exchange for the release of 300 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, including children and women.
The transfer would take place in stages at the rate of “ten” hostages against “thirty” Palestinian prisoners per day and would include the entry of food, medical aid and fuel and above all a “renewable five-day humanitarian truce”.
But Israel insists on “family reunification” meaning that if a civilian was released, his partner would also be released, even if he was a soldier, which Hamas refuses for the moment, being opposed to the release of soldiers, according to these two sources.
Relatives of the hostages met Monday evening with Benjamin Netanyahu and his “war cabinet”.
“Recovering our hostages is a sacred and supreme task and I am committed to it,” declared the Prime Minister on the social network X, after this meeting.
“We will not stop the fighting until we bring our hostages home, destroy Hamas and ensure that there are no more threats from Gaza,” he added.
“We wanted to hear about an agreement and to hear that the return of the abductees is a priority among the objectives of the war. We didn’t hear that,” said Udi Goren, whose cousin Tal Haimi is among the hostages. “It’s incredibly disappointing,” he added.
A hospital under siege
The army announced on Tuesday that its soldiers “continued to fight” in the northern Gaza Strip and that air and drone strikes had destroyed three tunnel entrances “where terrorists were hiding” on the outskirts of the Jabaliya camp, which shelters 116,000 refugees.
On Monday, Hamas accused Israel of having struck the Indonesian hospital, located on the edge of this camp, killing 12 people.
According to the spokesperson for the Hamas Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidreh, this hospital was still besieged on Tuesday by Israeli tanks and “50 dead are lying in the courtyard of the establishment”, while “15 others are in the indoor services”.
The Islamist movement claims that Israel is waging “a war against hospitals” in Gaza, almost all of which in the north of the territory are no longer functioning.
Israel, which has occupied al-Chifa hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, since November 15, accuses Hamas of using hospitals as military bases, buried in particular in tunnels, and of using the civilians there as “human shields”, which the Palestinian movement denies.
According to the UN, nearly 1.7 million of the 2.4 million inhabitants have been displaced by the war in the Gaza Strip, subject since October 9 by Israel to a “complete siege” which is leading to shortages. water, food, fuel, medicine and electricity. Humanitarian aid, the entry of which is subject to the green light from Israel, arrives in dribs and drabs via Egypt, in insufficient quantities, according to the UN.
Hundreds of thousands of displaced people have fled the fighting in the north to mass in the south, near the Egyptian border, in very precarious conditions.
On another front, two journalists and two other civilians were killed Tuesday by Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon, according to Lebanese media.
Since the start of the war in Gaza, there have been daily exchanges of fire on both sides of the border between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas and supported by Iran.
Update on the situation at 46e war day
The war between Israel and Hamas, entering its 46the day Tuesday, was triggered by the bloody attack of the Palestinian Islamist movement on October 7 on Israeli soil from the Gaza Strip, where it took power in 2007.
In retaliation, Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, relentlessly shelling the besieged territory where 2.4 million Palestinians are crowded and launching a ground operation on October 27.
Here are the latest developments:
Hostage agreement/truce in sight?
Negotiators working to free the hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip after being kidnapped on October 7 in Israel have “never been closer to an agreement”, a representative of Qatar, mediator in This folder. “We also hope that this mediation will result in a humanitarian truce,” he added.
“We are getting closer to concluding a truce agreement,” exiled Hamas leader Ismaïl Haniyeh said on Monday.
Two sources close to the matter indicated Tuesday that the talks included an agreement providing for the release of “50 to 100” hostages in exchange for the release of 300 Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Meetings on the hostage issue
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met relatives of the hostages on Monday evening, pledged to recover them, without lifting the veil on the ongoing talks.
The Red Cross announced Monday evening that its president, Mirjana Spoljaric, had met with Mr. Haniyeh in Qatar in order to “advance on humanitarian issues linked to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza.”
A health “tragedy” in sight
While Israel’s military operations in Gaza show no respite, particularly in the north of the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Tuesday that a real health “tragedy” was looming in this territory, due to the lack of fuel and water.
According to the spokesperson for the Hamas Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidreh, the Indonesian hospital (north) is still under siege on Tuesday by Israeli tanks and “50 dead are lying in front of the establishment”.
He indicated Monday evening that some 200 patients had been evacuated from this hospital, but that there remained “still 400 patients” in the establishment where at least “12 patients and their relatives” had been killed earlier according to him in a strike Israeli.
Since the start of the war, clashes between Israel and the powerful Lebanese Hezbollah and its allies have been daily in the border area.
Two journalists and two other civilians were killed Tuesday in southern Lebanon in Israeli strikes, said the official Lebanese news agency and the Al Mayadeen channel for which they worked.
Cross-border violence has left at least 92 dead in Lebanon since October 7, most of them Hezbollah fighters, but also at least 14 civilians, according to an AFP count. Nine people were killed on the Israeli side, including six soldiers, according to the authorities.
According to the Hamas government, more than 13,300 people have been killed in Israeli bombardments on the Gaza Strip since the start of the war, including more than 5,600 children and 3,550 women.
On the Israeli side, the Hamas attack left 1,200 dead, mainly civilians killed on October 7, according to the authorities. According to the army, 67 soldiers have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war.
The Israeli military estimates that around 240 people were taken hostage and taken to Gaza during the Hamas attack.
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