GAZA/JERUSALEM – The head of Hamas told Reuters on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group was close to a ceasefire agreement with Israel, even as the deadly attack on Gaza continued and rockets were fired at Israel.
Hamas officials are “close to reaching a ceasefire agreement” with Israel and the group has provided a response to Qatari mediators, Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement sent to Reuters by an adviser.
The statement gave no further details, but a Hamas official told Al Jazeera TV that negotiations focused on how long the truce would last, arrangements to deliver aid to Gaza and the exchange of Israeli hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Both sides will release the women and children, with details to be announced by Qatar, which is mediating the negotiations, said official Issat el Reshiq.
Hamas took approximately 240 hostages during an October 7 rampage in Israel that left 1,200 people dead.
Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met Haniyeh in Qatar on Monday to “make progress on 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 involved in negotiations to free the hostages, but as a neutral intermediary it stood ready “to facilitate any future release to which the parties agree.”
Rumors have been circulating for several days about an imminent hostage deal. Last week, Reuters reported that Qatari mediators were seeking an agreement for Hamas and Israel to exchange 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day ceasefire that would increase emergency aid deliveries to Gaza’s civilian population, citing official reports of the talks.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he hoped to reach an agreement “in the coming days,” while Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the remaining points of disagreement were “very minor.” “. “
U.S. President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials said Monday that a deal was imminent, but a deal already seemed imminent.
“Delicate negotiations like this can fail at the last minute,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
The Hamas airstrike on October 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year history, prompted Israel to invade Palestinian territory to attack Hamas.
The Hamas-led government in Gaza has since said that unrelenting Israeli bombing has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians, including at least 5,600 children and 3,550 women.
On Monday, Hamas said on its Telegram account that it had fired a series of rockets towards Tel Aviv. Witnesses also report rockets being fired into central Israel.
Hospitals at risk
Palestinian news agency WAFA reported on Tuesday that at least 17 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli bombing at the Nuserat camp in central Gaza at midnight.
There was no immediate comment from Israel.
Gaza’s health ministry said Monday that at least 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded in shelling of an Indonesian hospital complex that was surrounded by Israeli tanks.
Health services reported that 700 patients and staff came under Israeli fire.
WAFA reported that a facility in the northeastern Gaza city of Beit Lahia, financed by Indonesian organizations, was hit by artillery shells. Hospital staff denied that there were armed militants on the hospital premises.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he was “horrified” by the attack, which he said killed 12 people, including patients, citing unspecified reports.
The Israel Defense Forces said soldiers fired on combatants in the hospital while taking “numerous measures to minimize harm” to non-combatants.
Like all other health centers in northern Gaza, the Indonesian Hospital has largely ceased operations but continues to provide shelter to patients, staff and displaced residents.
On Monday, twenty-eight premature babies evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, were flown to Egypt for urgent treatment.
Last week, Israeli forces occupied Shifa to search for a network of tunnels they say Hamas has built under the hospital. Hundreds of patients, medical staff and displaced people left Shifa over the weekend, with doctors saying they were kicked out by the military and Israel saying the departures were voluntary.