Close to an agreement between Israel and Hamas for the release of hostages and a temporary ceasefire
"We are getting close to concluding a cease-fire agreement," the Hamas leader said.
Negotiations appeared to be accelerating today to free at least some of the hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian Islamist movement blamed the Israeli army for another deadly attack on a besieged hospital.
"The movement (including Hamas) gave its answer to the brothers from Qatar and the mediators. We are getting close to a ceasefire agreement," Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said in a terse message in Arabic sent to international news agencies - including AFP and Reuters - from his office.
According to sources close to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the two factions have indeed accepted a deal, the details of which have yet to be officially announced by Qatar and the mediators.
The Israeli government has not yet reacted to these statements.
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC), Miriana Spoliaric, met last Monday night with top Qatari officials and with Mr Haniya, who is based in the Gulf emirate, to "make progress in humanitarian affairs related to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza".
Qatar, Egypt and the US are brokering a deal that would see the hostages released in return for a ceasefire of several days in the Gaza Strip.
Although the ICRC assures that it is not involved in the negotiations, it insists that "(its) teams be allowed to visit the hostages to ensure they are well and to distribute medicine" as well as "so that the hostages can communicate with their families". , according to her statement.
"We've never come this close" and now "we're confident" but "there's work to be done" and "nothing's done until it's done," said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
To a journalist who asked him if "an agreement on the release of the hostages" of Hamas is close, US President Joe Biden answered yesterday in Washington "I believe".
Two sources familiar with the matter told AFP today that the talks involve the release of "50 to 100 hostages" in exchange for the release of 300 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, including children and women.
Their transfer will take place in phases, "ten" hostages will be exchanged for "thirty" prisoners daily, while it is also planned to allow the entry of food, medical and pharmaceutical aid and fuel, as well as - above all - to declare a "five-day renewable humanitarian ceasefire," according to AFP sources.
However, the government of Israel insists on the simultaneous release of members of the same families, which means that if a civilian is released, his or her partner will leave with him or her, even if he or she belongs to the ranks of the army. Hamas, which does not want to release its prisoners, has so far rejected it, according to these two sources.
Relatives of the hostages met last night with Israel's prime minister and members of the "war government" he has formed to press for stepped-up efforts to return some 240 people held by Hamas from the Gaza Strip to Israel.
"Bringing back our abductees is a sacred and supreme duty and I am committed to it," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said via Twitter after the meeting, without lifting the veil covering the negotiations, while assuring that he had discussed with " open heart" with families.
"We will not stop fighting until we take the hostages back home, destroy Hamas and make sure there is no longer a threat from Gaza," he added.
The release of the hostages is among the goals of the ongoing Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, which was launched after the bloody attack by Hamas on October 7.
About 1.200 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the Hamas attack, according to authorities, also a number not seen since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.
In retaliation, Israel, whose leadership has vowed to "wipe out" Hamas, which itself, the US and the EU designate as a "terrorist" organization, has since pounded the small Palestinian enclave relentlessly and has been conducting a ground operation since October 27.
According to the latest death toll announced yesterday by the Hamas government, more than 13.300 people have been killed in the enclave, including more than 5.600 children.
According to the UN, nearly 1,7 million of the 2,4 million residents of the Gaza Strip have been forcibly displaced by the war. The enclave has been under an "absolute siege" by the Israeli army since October 9, no food, water, medicines, or fuel are allowed to enter it, while the electricity supply has been cut.
In the Indonesian hospital
The Israeli army said overnight that its forces "continued to fight" in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian sources spoke of tensions at the Indonesian hospital, which was targeted the day before by Israeli strikes that killed "12 patients and relatives". them" and wounding "dozens" of others, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.
This is WHY Hamas brought hostages to the Shifa Hospital after the October 7 massacre.
Why is Hamas still holding over 200 civilians hostage 44 days later?
The Palestinian Islamist movement continues to complain that the Israeli army is waging a "war on hospitals" in Gaza; almost all health facilities in the northern part of the Palestinian enclave have now been shut down.
Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes and the civilians inside them as "human shields", which the Palestinian Islamist movement categorically denies.
The head of Indonesian diplomacy Retno Marsudi yesterday condemned the "Israeli attack (...) which killed many civilians and is a clear violation of international humanitarian law".
According to sources at the hospital, over a hundred wounded were treated in the evening and during the night from this health structure in the Nasser compound of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
"We got out (alive) by a miracle", initially "a school was hit (where the evacuees had taken refuge)", a young wounded man told AFP as he was being treated. "We were at the Zaitoun school in Gaza City, and from the school we went to the Indonesian hospital. I just have no words," he added.
OPERATIONAL UPDATE: IDF and ISA forces revealed a significant 55-meter-long terrorist tunnel, 10 meters underneath the Shifa Hospital complex during an intelligence-based operation.
Overnight, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that an Israeli strike on the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central part of the Palestinian enclave killed at least 17 Palestinians and injured many more.
Yesterday, 28 premature babies who were rushed over the weekend from the Shifa hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, which was raided by the Israeli army on November 15, were delivered "safely" to Egypt, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced. ).
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to participate in a digital summit of BRICS member states today, which will be dedicated to the war in the Gaza Strip, while the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, is expected to welcome his counterparts from the member countries in Moscow. the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.