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Talks accelerate for truce and release of hostages in Gaza

Gaza Strip | Talks accelerate Tuesday for the release of hostages in the hands of Hamas in exchange for a truce in the Gaza Strip where the Palestinian Islamist movement accuses Israel of a deadly strike on a besieged hospital.

• Read also: Two premature babies due to be evacuated from Gaza have died, WHO says

“The movement (Hamas, editor’s note) delivered its response to the brothers of Qatar and the mediators. We are getting closer to concluding a truce agreement,” Hamas leader Ismaïl Haniyeh said on Tuesday, in a brief message in Arabic sent by his office to AFP.

According to sources within Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the second largest Palestinian armed Islamist group, the two movements have accepted an agreement, the details of which must be announced by Qatar and the mediators. The Israeli government did not immediately react to these statements.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric, met on Monday evening with leaders of Qatar as well as Mr. Haniyeh, based in the Gulf emirate, in order to “move forward on humanitarian issues linked to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza”.

Qatar, Egypt and the United States are working on an agreement to try to free hostages kidnapped in Israel by Hamas in exchange for a truce in the Gaza Strip.

Although the ICRC assured that it would not participate in these talks, it insisted that its “teams be authorized to visit the hostages in order to ensure their well-being and to administer medication to them, and so that the hostages are able to communicate with their families,” according to a press release.

“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.

To a journalist who asked him the following question: “Is an agreement to release the hostages close?” », US President Joe Biden replied in Washington: “I believe”.

Any final details?

Two sources close to the matter told AFP on Tuesday that the talks focused on an agreement to release “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 Israeli 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” — which means that if a civilian was released, his partner would also be released, even if he was a soldier — which Hamas, opposed to the release of soldiers, refuses for moment, according to these two sources.

Relatives of the hostages met Monday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his “war cabinet”, under pressure to bring the approximately 240 hostages back to Israel.

“Recovering our hostages is a sacred and supreme task and I am committed to it,” declared Benjamin Netanyahu on the social network families.

“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.

Recovering the hostages is one of the objectives of the ongoing Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip and launched in the wake of the bloody attack on October 7 by the Palestinian Islamist movement.

In Israel, 1,200 people, the vast majority civilians, were killed, according to the authorities, in this attack of 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 also been carrying out 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.

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 to a “complete siege” by Israel, which blocks the deliveries of food, water, electricity and medicine.

• Read also: 90 Canadians evacuated from Gaza over the weekend

Indonesian hospital

The army indicated overnight that its soldiers “continued to fight” in the north of the Gaza Strip while Palestinian sources reported tensions at the Indonesian hospital, targeted the day before Israeli strikes which killed 12 patients and their loved ones” and caused “dozens of injuries” according to Hamas.

The Islamist movement constantly repeats that Israel is waging “a war against the hospitals” in Gaza, almost all of which in the north of the territory no longer work.

Israel, for its part, accuses Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and of using the civilians there as “human shields”, which the Palestinian movement denies.

The head of Indonesian diplomacy Retno Marsudi condemned this “Israeli attack (…) which killed many civilians and is a clear violation of international humanitarian law”.

According to local hospital sources, more than a hundred injured people were transferred in the evening and night from this hospital to the Nasser complex in Khan Younes, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

“We escaped miraculously. A strike hit the school (where the displaced people took refuge, editor’s note),” a young transferred man told AFP. “We were at the Zeitoune school in Gaza City, and from the school we went to the Indonesian hospital. I just can’t (talk).”

During the night, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported an Israeli strike causing deaths and injuries on a residence in the Nuseirat camp, located in the center of the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, 28 premature babies evacuated over the weekend from al-Chifa hospital, the largest in Gaza and stormed on November 15 by the Israeli army, were transferred “in complete safety” to Egypt, announced the World Health Organization (WHO).

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to participate on Tuesday in a virtual meeting of emerging Brics countries devoted to the war in Gaza, while his head of diplomacy Sergei Lavrov is due to receive his counterparts from the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic cooperation.

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