Hamas chief says close to truce agreement with Israel

Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams |

The chief of Hamas says the Palestinian militant group is near a truce agreement with Israel as the deadly assault on Gaza continues and rockets are 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 on Tuesday.

The statement gave no more details but a Hamas official told Al Jazeera TV 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.

The Red Cross is working to “advance humanitarian issues” in Gaza.

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

Hamas took about 240 hostages during its October 7 rampage into Israel that killed 1200 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 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”.

Talk of an imminent hostage deal has swirled for days.

Palestinians look at desctruction from the Israeli bombardment of Gaza
Hamas says Israel’s bombardment has killed some 13,300 Palestinians, including 5600 children.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog said on Sunday he hoped for an agreement “in the coming days” while Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the remaining sticking points were “very minor”.

US President Joe Biden and other US officials said on Monday a deal was near.

“Sensitive negotiations like this can fall apart at the last minute,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said on Sunday. 

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Hamas’ raid on October 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 5600 children and 3550 women, by unrelenting Israeli bombardment.

Hamas said on its Telegram account on Monday it had launched a barrage of missiles towards Tel Aviv. 

Witnesses also reported rockets being fired at central Israel.

Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system in action
Hamas says it launched a barrage of missiles towards the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA said on Tuesday at least 17 Palestinians were killed in the 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 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.

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.

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 number of premature babies have been evacuated from Gaza to Egypt.

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 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.