In a surprising development, the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, informed Reuters on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group is on the verge of reaching a truce agreement with Israel. This announcement comes amid a continuing deadly assault on Gaza and reciprocal rocket attacks into Israel.
Haniyeh, in a statement relayed by his aide to Reuters, revealed that Hamas officials are close to finalizing a truce agreement with Israel, and the group has already delivered its response to Qatari mediators. While the statement provided no specific details, an official from Hamas informed Al Jazeera TV that the ongoing negotiations focus on the duration of the truce, arrangements for aid delivery into Gaza, and the potential exchange of hostages.
The Hamas official, Issat el Reshiq, disclosed that both sides are considering the release of women and children, with Qatar expected to announce further details as it mediates in the negotiations.
The statement confirmed that Hamas had taken around 240 hostages during its October 7 incursion into Israel, resulting in the loss of 1,200 lives.
Mirjana Spoljaric, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met with Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar on Monday to address humanitarian concerns related to the conflict. The ICRC clarified that it is not part of the negotiations for releasing hostages but stands ready to facilitate any future release agreed upon by the involved parties.
The possibility of a hostage deal has been under discussion for days, with Qatari mediators reportedly seeking an exchange of 50 hostages between Hamas and Israel in return for a three-day ceasefire. This ceasefire aims to facilitate emergency aid shipments to Gaza civilians.
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog expressed hope for an agreement “in the coming days” on ABC’s “This Week,” while Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani noted that remaining issues were “very minor.”
Despite optimism from U.S. President Joe Biden and other officials, the White House emphasized that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, acknowledging the sensitivity of such negotiations.
Since Hamas’s October 7 raid, the deadliest day in Israel’s history, the conflict has escalated, prompting Israeli forces to invade Gaza. The Hamas-run government in Gaza reported over 13,300 Palestinian casualties, including 5,600 children and 3,550 women, due to sustained Israeli bombardment.
Hamas claimed to have launched missiles towards Tel Aviv on Monday, and witnesses reported rockets fired at central Israel.
The latest reports indicate at least 17 Palestinians killed in Israeli bombing in central Gaza, with Gaza’s health ministry reporting casualties from firing into the Indonesian Hospital complex. The hospital, encircled by Israeli tanks, is sheltering patients, staff, and displaced residents.
The Israeli Defence Forces stated that they fired back at fighters in the hospital while taking measures to minimize harm to non-combatants. The conflict has also led to the evacuation of prematurely born babies from Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, taken into Egypt for urgent treatment.
The situation remains fluid, with diplomatic efforts ongoing to secure a truce and address the humanitarian impact of the conflict.