WORLD NEWS Truce agreement to free some hostages is close, Hamas...

Truce agreement to free some hostages is close, Hamas says, but deal not confirmed by Israel | CBC News

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The chief of Hamas told Reuters on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group was near a truce agreement with Israel, even as the deadly assault on Gaza continued and rockets were being fired into Israel.

Hamas officials are “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel and the group has delivered its response to Qatari mediators, Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement sent to Reuters by his aide, but similar predictions in recent weeks have proven premature.

The statement gave no more details, but 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 the exchange of Israeli hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Both sides would free women and children and details will 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. Israel’s Channel 12 television quoted an unidentified senior government source saying “they are close” but giving no further details.

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

Injured Palestinians evacuated from the Indonesian hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip arrive by bus at Nasser hospital in the Palestinian territory’s southern city of Khan Younis on Monday. (AFP via Getty Images)

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 met separately with 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.”

Qatari mediators brokered deal

Talk of an imminent hostage deal has swirled for days. Reuters reported last week that Qatari mediators were seeking a deal for Hamas and Israel to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire that would boost emergency aid shipments to Gaza civilians, citing an official briefed on the talks.

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.”

WATCH | CBC News speaks with hostages’ loved ones about agonizing wait, uncertainty:

Hamas took their daughters, mothers, nieces, nephews

Featured VideoMore than 200 people are still being held hostage by Hamas, all of them with a family desperately waiting for their return. CBC’s Ioanna Roumeliotis spoke to some about what they’re going through and how they’re finding hope in the agonizing uncertainty.

U.S. President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials said on Monday a deal was near, but an agreement has appeared close before.

Hamas’ raid on Oct. 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year-old history, prompted Israel to invade the Palestinian territory to target Hamas.

Since then, Gaza’s Hamas-run government said at least 13,300 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 5,600 children and 3,550 women, by unrelenting Israeli bombardment.

Hamas said on its Telegram account on Monday that it had launched a barrage of missiles towards Tel Aviv. Witnesses also reported rockets being fired at central Israel.

Hospitals at risk

The Palestinian news agency WAFA said on Tuesday at least 17 Palestinians were killed in Israeli bombing of the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza at midnight.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Gaza’s health ministry said on Monday that at least 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded by firing into the Indonesian Hospital complex, which was encircled by Israeli tanks.

Health officials said 700 patients along with staff were under Israeli fire.

A young boy kneels on the ground beside two large bags of flour.
Palestinians receive bags of flour at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) distribution centre in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday. (Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)

WAFA said the facility in the northeast Gaza town of Beit Lahia, funded by Indonesian organizations, had been hit by artillery rounds. Hospital staff denied there were any armed militants on the premises.

World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “appalled” by the attack that he too said had killed 12 people, including patients, citing unspecified reports.

The Israeli Defence Forces said troops had fired back at fighters in the hospital while taking “numerous measures to minimize harm” to non-combatants.

Like all other health facilities in the northern half of Gaza, the Indonesian Hospital has largely ceased operations but is still sheltering patients, staff and displaced residents.

Twenty-eight prematurely born babies evacuated from Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, were taken into Egypt for urgent treatment on Monday.

Israeli forces seized Al-Shifa last week to search for a tunnel network they said was built by Hamas beneath the hospital. Hundreds of patients, medical staff and displaced people left Al-Shifa on the weekend, with doctors saying they were ejected by troops and Israel saying the departures were voluntary.

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