Israel says hostage release deal with Hamas could be approved within ‘hours’ of agreement as Netanyahu reveals officials are ‘making progress’ on their return
- Qatari and Hamas officials have said a truce and exchange deal is close
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The release of hostages seized by Hamas could be approved by the Israeli government within ‘hours’ of a hostage deal being agreed, a senior adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu has said.
Israel’s Prime Minister has said the country is ‘making progress’ in the deal that is reportedly being mediated through Qatari officials.
His comments came after the leader of Hamas said a truce agreement with Israel was in sight, and after Qatar said a deal was ‘in its final stages’.
According to Mark Regev – a senior adviser to Netanyahu, if a hostage deal is agreed, the release could be approved by the Israeli government ‘very quickly’.
‘If an arrangement is made for the release of our hostages… it requires a decision by the Israeli government and that I think can be done very quickly… I think we are talking about hours,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s the World at One programme.
The release of hostages seized by Hamas could be approved by the Israeli government within ‘hours’ of a hostage deal being agreed, a senior adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu has said. Pictured: Israel soldiers transfer detained Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip on November 21
Israel’s Prime Minister has said the country is ‘making progress’ in the deal that is reportedly being mediated through Qatari officials. Israeli soldiers are seen taking detained Palestinians out of the Gaza Strip, November 21
Israeli soldiers operate in a location given as Gaza, amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Hamas, in this image released on November 21
Smoke, rising over the destroyed buildings following the Israeli attacks on Gaza, is seen from the southern city of Sderot in Israel on November 21
Portraits of Israeli children hostages are displayed during a rally outside the Unicef offices in Tel Aviv on November 20, 2023 to demand the release of Israelis held hostage in Gaza
On the deal, he said: ‘It’s possible that it’s close, but it’s not done until it’s done… a deal is indeed possible but we can’t yet say it’s a done deal yet… I hope we will see the release of our people shortly… but I am still not 100% sure.’
Regev noted that one element of the deal could take ‘a touch longer’ if the deal involves the release of Palestinians legally held in Israeli prisons for ‘killing people.’
‘There’s been arrangement in the past where by families of those people who were killed by these individuals can petition the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court does a hearing which would take a few hours as well,’ he said.
According to sources briefed on the talks, the deal is for a multi-day pause in hostilities, the release of around 50 to 100 civilian hostages by Hamas and the release of Palestinian women and children from Israeli custody.
The hostage and prisoner transfer would span several days, with 10 hostages from Gaza and 30 Palestinians from Israel released each day.
The Jerusalem Post – citing a political source in Israel – reports that the temporary ceasefire will last five days and see 40 children and 13 female hostages released from Hamas captivity.
However, the agreement could anger some in Israel. One source has said it will see 300 Palestinians freed from Israeli jails, meaning at least three Palestinians could be exchanged for every one Israeli hostage, while still leaving more than 100 in Gaza.
Another stumbling block, according to two sources close to the talks, could be Israel’s insistence that captive soldiers should be released if they are related to a civilian abductee freed by the militants – despite Hamas objections.
‘Qatar and Egypt are currently working with the US administration to resolve that issue,’ the sources said, adding that only then would a date be announced.
According to the sources, the deal includes a ‘complete ceasefire’ on the ground for five days, with Israel allowed to fly sorties over northern Gaza for 18 hours a day.
The deal also provides for between 100 and 300 trucks of food and medical aid, as well as fuel, to enter Gaza, the sources said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this afternoon that progress was being made on the release of hostages, but gave no more specifics.
‘We are making progress. I don’t think it’s worth saying too much, not at even this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon,’ he told reservists, according to a statement from his office.
The latest update comes after Hamas’s chief also said the two enemies were close to reaching a deal, raising hopes that the hostages inside Gaza could be released.
Smoke rises after Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict
Hamas officials are ‘close to reaching a truce agreement’ with Israel and the group has delivered its response to Qatari mediators, Ismail Haniyeh (right) said in a statement. Pictured with Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on 31 October
The parents and relatives of children kidnapped on October 7, along with families of hostages and their supporters take part in a demonstration outside the UNICEF headquarters in Tel Aviv yesterday
Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement issued this morning that Hamas has delivered its response to Qatari mediators, who are understood to be working on the agreement.
The statement gave no more details, but a Hamas official told Al Jazeera TV that negotiations were centred on the length of the truce, arrangements for delivery of aid into Gaza and the exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.
In Qatar, foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari told reporters: ‘We are at the closest point we ever had been in reaching an agreement.
‘We’re very optimistic, very hopeful,’ he added.
Both sides would free women and children and details will be announced by Qatar, said the official, named as by the news outlet Issat el Reshiq.
An estimated 240 hostages were seized during Hamas’s horrific assault on October 7, that also saw terrorists kill around 1,200 people. The majority of the hostages are Israeli civilians, some of them young children and elderly people.
According to France’s AFP news agency, sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad – which also participated in the October 7 attacks – have also confirmed that their groups had agreed to the terms of a truce deal.
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Under the agreement, between 50 and 100 Israeli civilian and foreign hostages would be released, but no military personnel. In exchange, some 300 Palestinians would be released from Israeli jails, among them women and children.
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’.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said that the remaining sticking points were ‘very minor.’
US President Joe Biden and other US officials said on Monday a deal was near, but an agreement has appeared close before.
‘Sensitive negotiations like this can fall apart at the last minute,’ White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ program on Sunday. ‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.’
Meanwhile, 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 the negotiations, but as a neutral intermediary it was ready ‘to facilitate any future release that the parties agree to.’
Hamas’ raid on October 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year 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.
An agreement could bring some respite for Gazans who have lived for more than six weeks under Israel bombardment and an expanding ground offensive.
Large parts of Gaza have been destroyed by air strikes that have numbered in the thousands, and the territory is under siege, with minimal food, water and fuel allowed to enter.
According to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources, the deal would also allow for up to 300 trucks of food and medical aid to enter Gaza.
Israel has been wary of allowing fuel into the strip for fear it could be used by Hamas in rockets or for other paramilitary means.
Israel has vowed to press ahead with its offensive, pledging to crush Hamas and ensure the hostages are released.
‘We will not stop fighting until we bring our hostages home,’ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared after meeting relatives of those abducted.
A child injured in the attacks is brought to Nasser Hospital for treatment in Khan Yunis, Gaza, yesterday
Parents and relatives of those kidnapped on October 7 protested in Tel Aviv yesterday
As talks over a truce continued, Hamas said on its Telegram account on Monday that it had launched a barrage of missiles towards Tel Aviv.
READ MORE: Dozens of premature babies born into Gaza warzone arrive in Egypt for treatment – after Israel helped the perilously ill infants cross the border
Witnesses also reported rockets being fired at central Israel.
Meanwhile, 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.
Medics and patients were again caught on the front line on Tuesday, as Israel expanded its operation across the north of the territory.
Officials in the Hamas-run health ministry said Israel struck the Indonesian Hospital on Monday, killing 12 people, before moving in ground forces.
The Hamas government said dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles were deployed around the outskirts of the hospital and were firing towards the facility.
Health officials said 700 patients along with staff were under Israeli fire.
‘The Israeli army is laying siege to the Indonesian Hospital,’ ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.
‘We fear the same thing will happen there as it did in Al-Shifa,’ Qudra added, referring to Gaza’s largest hospital which has been besieged by Israeli troops.
Twenty-eight premature babies were evacuated from Al-Shifa to Egypt on Monday.
Israeli forces seized 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 Shifa at the weekend, with doctors saying they were ejected by troops and Israel saying the departures were voluntary.
The Indonesian Hospital sits on the fringe of Gaza’s largest refugee camp Jabalia, which has become a new focus for the war and has been the scene of intense Israeli bombing in recent days.
WAFA said the facility in the northeast Gaza town of Beit Lahia, funded by Indonesian organisations, had been hit by artillery rounds.
The health ministry official said there still were about 400 patients inside the hospital, as well as 2,000 people seeking shelter.
Around 200 people were evacuated from the hospital on Monday and bussed to the relative safety of a hospital in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.
At the Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, an AFP reporter witnessed bloodied children being carried into the facility and lying dazed on gurneys amid the chaos.
‘We miraculously got out,’ said one man who said he escaped the Indonesian Hospital. ‘We still have brothers there. I just can’t…’ he said, his voice trailing off.
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 world cannot stand silent while these hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair,’ the UN’s health organisation said in a statement.
The Israeli Defence Forces said troops had fired back at fighters in the hospital while taking ‘numerous measures to minimise harm’ to non-combatants.
A Palestinian woman is pictured in front of the damage following Israeli strikes on Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip, on November 20
Hospital staff have denied there were any armed militants on the premises.
Israel says Hamas uses medical facilities to hide fighters and as the base for operations, making them legitimate military objectives – while insisting it does everything possible to limit harm to civilians.
But international criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war has grown in recent weeks, with protests erupting across the world, international agencies laying allegations of war crimes, and some governments breaking diplomatic ties.
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.
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