SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 6 December 2023, Wednesday |

Hamas chief says truce deal with Israel is ‘close’

Even as the devastating assault on Gaza continued and missiles were fired into Israel, Hamas’s leader stated on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group was close to reaching a truce with Israel.

Hamas officials were “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel, and the party had given its response to Qatari mediators, according to an adviser to Ismail Haniyeh.

A source briefed on the negotiations told Reuters the agreement was in its “final stages” and “closer than it has ever been”.

The deal 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, according to the source.

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 has generally avoided giving commentary on the status of the Qatar-led talks, but Israel’s Channel 12 and Channel 13 TV stations both quoted unidentified officials as saying terms of a deal could be reached “within hours”, giving no details.

Hamas took about 240 hostages during its Oct. 7 rampage into Israel that killed 1,200 people.

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”.

RAIN AND COLD WORSEN CONDITIONS

Talk of an imminent hostage deal has swirled for days.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he hoped for an agreement “in the coming days”, while Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said that the remaining sticking points were “very minor”. U.S. President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials said on Monday a deal was near.

The Hamas raid on Oct. 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year-old history, prompted Israel to invade Gaza to annihilate the militant group that has ruled there since 2007.

Since then, Gaza’s Hamas-run government says at least 13,300 Palestinians have been confirmed killed, including at least 5,600 children, by Israeli bombardment that has turned much of Gaza, especially its northern half, into wasteland.

Around two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been made homeless, with thousands a day still trekking south on foot with belongings and children in their arms. The central and southern parts of the enclave, where Israel has told them to go, have also regularly come under attack.

A day and a night of rain and cold winter weather worsened the dire conditions in Gaza for the displaced, many thousands of whom are sleeping rough or in makeshift tents.

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 it was working on plans to evacuate three hospitals in northern Gaza: Al Shifa, Al Ahli and the Indonesian Hospital, lamenting this as a last resort.

“It’s robbing the entire population of the north of the means to seek health (care),” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva press briefing.

Gaza’s health ministry said on Monday that at least 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded by firing into the Indonesian-built hospital, encircled by Israeli tanks. Israel says it shot back at fighters who opened fire from inside it.

Health officials said 700 patients along with staff were under Israeli fire, and have denied any fighters were present.

The head of the nursing department, Issam Nabhan, told Al-Jazeera Live on Tuesday that patients were dying and there were 60 dead bodies that needed to be buried in courtyards on the grounds. He called for patients and staff to be evacuated.

“There is no oxygen to supply the patients. All those on artificial respiration have died. We speak out to the free world. The Indonesian hospital has become a cemetery, not a hospital.”

    Source:
  • Reuters