Hamas says Gaza truce deal with Israel 'close', raising hopes for hostage swap

Hamas says Gaza truce deal with Israel 'close', raising hopes for hostage swap
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21 November, 2023

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday a truce agreement with Israel was in sight, raising hopes that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and dozens of people taken hostage in the October 7 attacks could be released.

There was no immediate response from Israel on the status of negotiation efforts to secure the release of the estimated 240 hostages seized during Hamas' surprise incursion.

The majority of the hostages are Israeli civilians. Only a handful have been released by Hamas.

"We are close to reaching a deal on a truce," Haniyeh said, according to a statement sent by his office to AFP.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, sources from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirmed that their groups had agreed to the terms of a truce deal.

The tentative deal includes a five-day truce, comprised of a ceasefire on the ground and limits to Israeli air operations over southern Gaza. Israeli bombardment has killed over 13,300 people so far, most of them civilians.

Under the agreement, between 50 and 100 Israeli civilian and foreign hostages would be released, but no military personnel.

In exchange, some 300 Palestinians would be released from Israeli jails, among them women and children.

On Monday, US President Joe Biden had said he believed a deal was close, as hopes grew for talks brokered by Qatar, where Hamas has a political office and which has behind-the-scenes diplomatic links with Israel.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday that its president had travelled to Qatar to meet Hamas's Haniyeh.

BRICS urge 'immediate, durable, sustained' truce in Gaza
4:05 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The leaders of the BRICS group of nations on Tuesday called for an "immediate" humanitarian truce in Gaza during a summit aimed at drawing up a common response to the Gaza war.

"We called for an immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities," the group of major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said in a statement.

Bahrain govt websites briefly inaccessible after hack claim
3:42 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The websites of two government ministries in Bahrain briefly became inaccessible Tuesday night after a statement claimed hackers took them down over the island kingdom's stance on the ongoing Gaza war.

A statement posted online by a self-described group calling itself Al-Toufan, or "The Flood" in Arabic, claimed hacking the Foreign Ministry and the Information Affairs Ministry's websites. Both later became accessible again Tuesday night.

The statement said the purported hacks came in retaliation for "the abnormal statements issued" by the island's Al Khalifa ruling family, without elaborating.

Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa opened a summit last week in the kingdom with a call for a swap between Hamas and Israel for the hostages and a halt in the bloodshed.

The Bahraini government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. State media in Bahrain did not acknowledge the incident.


Israel ordered evacuation of Gaza field hospital: Jordan
3:16 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Jordan said on Tuesday Israel had ordered the evacuation of a Jordanian field hospital in Gaza, but added that it would not heed the order.

Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh also said Jordan's army was beefing up its presence along the border in view of the developments in Gaza, in comments carried on state media.

EU clears continued development aid to Palestinians
3:01 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The EU on Tuesday gave the green light to continuing development aid to Palestinians after a review found no funds had gone to Hamas, but said tighter controls would be imposed going forward.

"The review found no indications of EU money having directly or indirectly benefited the terrorist organisation Hamas," European Commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis said.

The EU, UK, US and other countries classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Yousaf calls for Gaza truce, recognition of Palestine state
2:24 PM
The New Arab Staff

Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf has reiterated calls for a ceasefire in war-torn Gaza, saying that he has written to both UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer in the hopes that calls for a truce, as well as the recognition of the State of Palestine are backed.

Yousaf said he has also made calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate whether war crimes are being committed.

Later on Tuesday, the First Minister will open the debate on the situation in Gaza on a government motion that condemns the Hamas cross-border attacks on 7 October, calls for the release of those kidnapped, and for all parties to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

Progress 'being made' on hostages return: Netanyahu
2:20 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that "we are making progress" on the return of hostages captured by Hamas on October 7, after mediators said a truce deal was in sight.

"I hope there will be good news soon," Netanyahu told Israeli soldiers at a military base in the north of the country.

Shortly afterwards, his office released a statement saying that "in light of the developments regarding the release of our hostages," the war cabinet, security cabinet and the government will meet in succession on Tuesday evening.

Israeli forces shoot, injure two Palestinians in Jenin
2:17 PM
The New Arab Staff

Two young Palestinians were shot and injured today by Israeli forces amid confrontations in the village of al-Fandaqomiah, south of Jenin, to local sources told the Palestinians official news agency Wafa.

Soldiers and settlers from the illegal Homesh settlement reportedly broke into the village as snipers were deployed on rooftops near the school, witnesses said.

Troops opened fire and shot tear gas canisters at the Palestinians, injuring two with live bullets and many others suffered suffocation.

Putin: BRICS could help 'reach political settlement' in Gaza
2:11 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on for a political solution on Tuesday to the Israel's war in Gaza and said regional states and members of the BRICS group of countries could be involved in efforts to reach such a settlement.

In televised comments to a virtual BRICS summit, Putin once again blamed the Middle East crisis on the failure of US diplomacy in the region.

"We call for the joint efforts of the international community aimed at de-escalating the situation, a ceasefire and finding a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And the BRICS states and countries of the region could play a key role in this work," Putin said.

He did not elaborate on how such an effort might be organised.

In previous comments he has repeatedly attacked US policy, urged Israel to show restraint and has expressed sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, who have been killed in their thousands since October 7.

Last month he warned Israel against laying siege to Gaza in the same way that Nazi Germany besieged Leningrad during World War Two, saying a ground offensive there would lead to an "absolutely unacceptable" number of civilian casualties.

On Tuesday he said it was "terrible" that Palestinian children were dying in large numbers, adding that the sight of operations being performed on children without anaesthetics "evokes special feelings".

Continued bombing of south Gaza aims to expel people: Egypt
1:24 PM
The New Arab Staff

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry accused Israel of deliberately trying to expel Palestinians from the Gaza Strip by bombing the enclave's south.

"Continued bombing targeting displaced people in the south has a clear objective, and that's to force Gaza’s residents to leave the Strip. Egypt has clearly declared its utter rejection of any enforced displacement attempt of Palestinians," he wrote on X.

South Africa accuses Israel of war crimes and 'genocide'
1:21 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accused Israel of war crimes and "genocide" in Gaza, as he chaired an extraordinary summit of the BRICS group of nations on Tuesday.

"The collective punishment of Palestinian civilians through the unlawful use of force by Israel is a war crime. The deliberate denial of medicine, fuel, food and water to the residents of Gaza is tantamount to genocide," he said.

One killed in Israeli raid in Blata camp: health ministry
1:18 PM
The New Arab Staff

One person who was injured in an Israeli raid on the Blata camp on Tuesday succumbed to his wounds, the Palestinian health ministry said.

EU faces growing Muslim animosity over Gaza war: Borrell
12:50 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The European Union faces growing animosity across the Muslim world and beyond due to accusations of pro-Israel bias and double standards over the war in Gaza, the bloc's foreign policy chief has warned.

Josep Borrell said he feared such acrimony could undermine diplomatic support for Ukraine in the Global South and the EU's ability to insist on human rights clauses in international agreements.

He said the EU had to show "more empathy" for the loss of Palestinian civilian lives in Israel's war against Hamas, launched in response to the deadly Oct. 7 cross-border assault by the Palestinian militant group.

His comments came in interviews with Reuters during a five-day trip that took him to the Israeli kibbutz of Be'eri, the occupied West Bank, a regional security conference in Bahrain and royal audiences in Qatar and Jordan.

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On the trip, which ended on Monday evening, Borrell heard Arab leaders and Palestinian civil society activists complain that the 27-nation EU was not applying the same standards to Israel's war in Gaza that it applies to Russia's war in Ukraine.

"All of them were really criticising the posture of the European Union as one-sided," Borrell said.

Waving his mobile phone, he said he had already received messages from some ministers signalling they would not support Ukraine next time there was a vote at the United Nations.

"If things continue a couple of weeks like this, the animosity against Europeans (will grow)," he added.

WHO: planning underway to evacuate three Gaza hospitals
12:13 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

A World Health Organization spokesperson said on Tuesday that three hospitals in Israeli-besieged Gaza had requested help with evacuating patients and that planning had started.

WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said evacuations were a last resort. "It's robbing the entire population of the north of the means to seek health (care)," he told a Geneva press briefing.

The three hospitals were Al Shifa, from which a group of babies has already been rescued, Indonesian Hospital and Al Ahli Hospital, he said.

"So far it's only in planning stages with no further details," he added.

At the same briefing, the U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) warned of the risk of "mass disease outbreak" that could cause child death rates to mount in the densely populated enclave where thousands of people are crammed into overcrowded shelters.

"If children’s access to water and sanitation in Gaza continue to be restricted and insufficient, we will see a tragic – yet entirely avoidable – surge in the number of children dying," said UNICEF spokesperson James Elder.

Two premature babies died before evacuation from Gaza: UN
11:35 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Two premature babies being cared for at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza died before the evacuation of 31 others, the UN said Tuesday, adding that most of those who reached Egypt were "unaccompanied".

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that the Al-Shifa hospital had been caring for 33 premature babies just the evening before the evacuation.

"Two of these premature infants died only on that night because of the lack of care available to them," he said.

4 killed in Israeli drone strike on car in south Lebanon
11:28 AM
The New Arab Staff

Four people were killed when their car was targeted in an Israeli drone strike in south Lebanon on Tuesday.

Sources told Alaraby TV that those killed were members of Hamas' armed wing, Al-Qassam Brigades. The New Arab could not immediately verify this.

The vehicle was reportedly travelling on a secondary road about five miles south of Tyre city and seven miles north of the border with Israel, the National News Agency reported.

Images shared online showed smoke billowing from the scene of the attack, as well as the car on the fire.

It came after four others, including two journalists, were killed earlier Tuesday.

Israeli police claims 2 Oct. 7 infiltrators from Gaza held
11:12 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli police claimed on Tuesday they had arrested two Palestinians from Gaza, including a Hamas fighter, found hiding in southern Israel after infiltrating the area during the October 7 attacks.

The arrests in early November were first reported by Israeli media with the details confirmed to AFP by a spokesman for the border police.

He said the pair were arrested in Rahat, a town in southern Israel mostly populated by Bedouin Arabs, following an operation by an undercover border police unit. The town lies about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Gaza border.

Both were unarmed and found in an empty house, and were taken for investigation.

75% of Gaza victims are women, children, elderly: UNRWA
11:09 AM
The New Arab Staff

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said out of the more than 13,000 people killed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza so far, 75% of them are women, children and elderly persons.

Palestinians wounded in Israeli raid in Blata camp
10:50 AM
The New Arab Staff

An Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank left at least five Palestinians wounded, including minors, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Israeli forces and vehicles deployed in the Blata camp, east of Nablus, clashing with residents.


Gaza hostage talks 'closest' to deal since Oct 7: Qatar
10:45 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Negotiations to free hostages being held by Hamas are at their "closest point" to a deal and have reached the "final stage," mediator Qatar said Tuesday.

"We are at the closest point we ever had been in reaching an agreement," foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said, adding negotiations have reached a "critical and final stage."

"We are very optimistic, very hopeful," Al-Ansari told a briefing. "But we are also very keen for this mediation to succeed in reaching a humanitarian truce," he said.

The United States said Saturday it was still working to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas after the Washington Post reported there was a tentative agreement to free women and children hostages in exchange for a pause in fighting.

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said all parties would halt combat operations for at least five days while some hostages were to be released in batches.

The White House quickly responded on Saturday evening with a message on X, formerly Twitter, to deny any major breakthrough.

"We have seen a lot of the leaks or the statements here and there but we would prefer to keep our statements until we have a final decision on the agreement," Al-Ansari said.

Gaza sanitation 'perfect storm for tragedy': UN
10:11 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Fuel shortages and the worsening sanitation situation in the Gaza Strip is shaping up to be the perfect storm for tragedy through the spread of disease, the United Nations warned Tuesday.

"Without enough fuel, we will see the collapse of sanitation services. So we have then, on top of the mortars and the bombs, a perfect storm for the spread of disease. It's a perfect storm for tragedy," UNICEF spokesman James Elder told a press briefing in Geneva.

Israel strike kills 2 journalists, civilian in south Lebanon
9:43 AM
The New Arab Staff

At least two journalists and a civilian were killed when an Israeli drone strike targeted a group of reporters in southern Lebanon.

The attack took place between the villages of Tayr Harfa and Jebbayn in southern Lebanon, about a mile from the Israeli border.

The journalists from Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV were identified as reporter Farah Omar and photojournalist Rabih Maamari. Al-Mayadeen director Ghassan bin Jiddo said the third civilian killed with the two journalists was a "contributor" to the channel.

This raises the number of journalists killed in southern Lebanon by Israel since October 7 to three, with several others wounded.

Putin to discuss Gaza crisis with BRICS leaders
9:19 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the Gaza war with the leaders of the BRICS bloc in a video conference on Tuesday, after which the group is expected to issue a joint statement, the Kremlin said.

The voice of the BRICS needed to be heard in the world, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Israel strike kills elderly woman in south Lebanon: NNA
9:11 AM
The New Arab Staff

An Israeli strike killed an elderly woman and wounded her granddaughter in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, state-run media reported.

"Enemy aircraft raided inhabited houses in Kfarkela, leading to the death of citizen Laiqa Sarhan, 80, and the wounding of her granddaughter," the official National News Agency said.

17 Palestinians killed in bombardment of Nuseirat camp: WAFA
8:50 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Seventeen Palestinians were killed in Israeli bombardment of Nuseirat camp in Gaza at midnight, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa said early on Tuesday.

Group of Muslim countries to push for Gaza ceasefire: source
8:47 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

A newly formed group made up of senior officials from several Muslim countries will visit the United Nations Security Council's five permanent members and others to urge an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, a Turkish foreign ministry source said on Tuesday.

The source said the group had started talking with the permanent U.N. Security Council members - the United States, China, Russia, Britain, and France - with a visit to Beijing on Monday, and would also visit other countries.

"The primary goal of the contact group is for a ceasefire to be announced as soon as possible and for humanitarian aid to be sent to Gaza," the source said.

"As an end goal, (the group) aims to contribute to the two-state solution within the framework of internationally accepted parameters; to Palestinians living in their own country safely, with stability and prosperity," the person said.

Israeli troops battle Hamas fighters across northern Gaza
8:44 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli troops battled Hamas fighters in a dense, urban refugee camp on Tuesday as the army expanded operations across northern Gaza, where residents have been without electricity, water or access to humanitarian aid for weeks.

The front line of the war has shifted to the Jabaliya camp, which Israel has struck several times since the start of the war on 7 October.

The Israeli military said forces are "preparing the battlefield" in the area of Jabaliya. It claimed to have struck three tunnel shafts where fighters were hiding and destroyed rocket launchers, adding that "dozens" of Hamas members have been killed in recent days.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas, and it was not possible to independently confirm details of the fighting.






The New Arab Staff
The New Arab Staff & Agencies