International pressure grows on Israel to end its more than six-week retaliatory offensive in Gaza
Hamas Chief Says Close to ‘Truce’ Amid Hostage Negotiations
Hamas said the group is close to reaching a “truce agreement” with Israel via Qatari mediation in rare public comments that suggest talks over freeing some hostages are progressing and could lead to a limited pause in fighting.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s announcement came after US President Joe Biden said Israel and the militant Palestinian group are closing in on a deal to free some of the 240 people kidnapped when Hamas fighters stormed Israel on Oct. 7، killing about 1،200 people.
“The movement delivered its response to the brothers in Qatar and the mediators، and we are close to reaching a truce agreement،” Haniyeh said in a statement on Telegram.
Releasing all hostages
Israel، which has vowed to destroy Hamas، has said for weeks that it won’t contemplate a cease-fire until all hostages were released. But in recent days there have been growing signs the two sides are getting closer to a deal to free some abductees that would include a temporary cessation in fighting.
Qatar، which hosts some of Hamas’s political leaders، is helping broker the talks between the group، which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union.
The move comes as international pressure grows on Israel to end its more than six-week retaliatory offensive in Gaza، which authorities in the Hamas-run enclave say has killed thousands of civilians and triggered a humanitarian crisis. An Arab delegation headed by Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat is visiting Russia a day after talks in China، where they called for de-escalation in Gaza to end the “catastrophe” there. Leaders of major emerging-market nations — known as the BRICS — will also hold a video summit Tuesday on the Israel-Hamas war.
Hamas has agreed in principle for more than 50 women and children to be released، Axios reported earlier. In return، Israel would pause its military attacks for a specified time each day and release some Palestinians in Israeli jails. Israel’s Channel 12 cited an unnamed senior Israeli official saying that a hostage deal is “very close.” Those to be released would be children، their mothers، and other women، the report added.
Israeli forces have been engaged in heavy fighting with Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip. The main thrust of Israel’s ground offensive is eastwards into Gaza City، which the military describes as Hamas’s “center of gravity.” Israeli forces have taken control of many parts of the city’s Al Shifa hospital and over the weekend showed videos they say prove Hamas exploited the facility، building a command center and tunnels underneath it.
While Israel has concentrated its air strikes and ground assault on northern Gaza، it is now turning its attention to the south، signaling the possibility of sending troops there. Israel has urged civilians to evacuate to southern Gaza since the beginning of the war.
The United Nations says the humanitarian situation in the densely packed Gaza Strip is dire and that its roughly 2 million inhabitants need much more food and medicine.
Fears also remain of the war spreading into a wider Middle East conflict with daily exchanges of fire along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Israeli warplanes on Tuesday struck targets inside Lebanese territory after Iran-backed militia Hezbollah shot mortar shells at a military post، Israel’s army said.