Hamas chief says close to a cease-fire agreement with Israel

  • Details of the ceasefire will be announced by Qatar, Hamas told Al Jazeera
  • Hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners: Hamas official
  • Both sides to free women, children: Hamas official
  • Talks center on ceasefire, aid arrangements: Hamas official

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 21 (Reuters) – The head of Hamas told Reuters on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group was close to a ceasefire deal with Israel, even as deadly attacks on Gaza continued and rockets were fired at Israel.

Hamas officials are “close to reaching a ceasefire 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.

The statement did not give further details, but a Hamas official told Al Jazeera TV that the talks centered on how long the ceasefire would last, arrangements for the delivery of aid to Gaza and the exchange of Israeli hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners in Israel .

Both sides will free women and children, and details will be announced by Qatar, which is mediating the talks, said the official, Issat el Reshiq.

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

Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met with 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 agreed by the parties.”

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Talk of an impending hostage deal has been swirling for days. Reuters reported last week that Qatari brokers were seeking a deal for Hamas and Israel to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire that would increase aid shipments to Gaza civilians, citing an official briefed on the negotiations.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that he hoped for a deal “in the coming days,” while Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the remaining issues were “very minor.” . .”

US President Joe Biden and other US officials said on Monday that a deal was close, but a deal 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 Sunday. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Hamas’ October 7 raid, 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 persistent Israeli bombardment.

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


Palestinian news agency WAFA said on Tuesday that 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 compound, which was surrounded by Israeli tanks.

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

WAFA said the facility in the northeastern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, funded by Indonesian organizations, had been hit by artillery rounds. The hospital staff denied that there were any armed militants at the site.

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

The Israel Defense Forces said troops had returned fire at fighters in the hospital while taking “many 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 it is still sheltering patients, staff and displaced residents.

Twenty-eight premature babies evacuated from Gaza’s main hospital, Al Shifa, were brought to Egypt for emergency treatment on Monday.

Israeli forces seized Shifa last week to search for a tunnel network they said was being built by Hamas under the hospital. Hundreds of patients, medical staff and displaced persons left Shifa over the weekend, with doctors saying they were kicked out by troops and Israel saying the departures were voluntary.

Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Idrees Ali and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman & Simon Cameron-Moore

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A senior correspondent with almost 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.