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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 13 NOVEMBER 2023

Israel-Hamas hostage exchange deal possible, says US; contact lost with major hospital in Gaza

Israel-Hamas hostage exchange deal possible, says US; contact lost with major hospital in Gaza
People search through buildings, destroyed during Israeli air strikes in the southern Gaza Strip on 12 November 2023 in Khan Yunis. (Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images)

Israel pressed on with its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, engaging in ground battles in a northern refugee camp while rejecting rising international calls for a ceasefire. On Israel’s northern border, six civilians were injured after anti-tank missiles were fired by the militant group Hezbollah from within Lebanon. Israel struck back later with fighter jets.

The United Nations said Israeli ground attacks and shelling intensified around hospitals in Gaza City and northern Gaza, with several being directly hit, while contact was lost with al-Shifa, a major facility. Israel, which accuses Hamas of using the hospitals as command centres, said there was safe passage for anyone who wanted to leave.

A US official said on Sunday that a deal was possible for Hamas to release some of the hostages it took during the 7 October attacks on Israel, in exchange for a similar gesture by Israel. The timing of any agreement was still uncertain, and a Palestinian official briefed on the talks appeared to throw cold water on prospects for a breakthrough.

Latest developments

Evacuation of Polish citizens begins from Gaza 

A group of Polish citizens left Gaza on Sunday via the Rafah crossing into Egypt, the country’s National Security Bureau said on X, formally Twitter. Poland was also involved in talks to release hostages including its citizen Alex Dancyg, a historian and Yad Vashem Institute contributor, head of the bureau Jacek Siewiera told state newswire PAP.

Thousands in France protest against anti-Semitism 

Thousands gathered across large French cities on Sunday to protest against the rise of anti-Semitism. The largest protest was in Paris, with the participation of ministers, politicians from the left to the right, and celebrities.

President Emmanuel Macron said he would join the demonstrations “in [his] heart and in thoughts”. In a letter to the nation, Macron condemned the “unbearable resurgence of unbridled anti-Semitism” and called for national unity.

Israel says 15 launches identified from Lebanon within an hour

Israel says 15 launches were identified from Lebanon within an hour on Sunday afternoon as cross-border skirmishes continued unabated. Four were intercepted and the remainder fell into open areas, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. Al Jazeera reported two rockets fired from south Lebanon toward upper Galilee in Israel.

Israel has responded with artillery fire toward the origins of the launches. Seven Israeli soldiers were lightly injured in the area of Manara as a result of mortar shell fire.

Israel-Hamas hostage swap possible – NBC 

A Biden administration official told NBC of a possible deal that would see Hamas release about 80 Israeli women and children hostages in exchange for a similar gesture by Israel.

There’s no certainty that current talks will yield a result, NBC reported, without identifying the official, who added that the US was also exploring other options.

Separately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the US network that there “could” be a deal in the offing. “The less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materialises,” he said on Meet the Press.

Jets strike Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in response to fire  

Israeli jets hit several Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including military infrastructure, in response to earlier fire, the IDF said.

In addition, Israeli soldiers struck militants that had opened fire towards the area of Dovev in northern Israel, injuring several civilians.

In another incident, a militant cell in Lebanon launched several mortar shells towards northern Israel. The IDF attacked the unit, as well as an additional group of militants in southern Lebanon.

US citizens gradually getting out of Gaza, says White House

Some of the roughly 400 US citizens still in Gaza were leaving the enclave on Sunday, said White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“The gate has been opened and closed. The lists have included Americans some days and not other days,” Sullivan said on CBS’s Face The Nation. “But the bottom line is today the gate is open. We are moving American citizens and their family members out.”

Sullivan said the US in the days ahead hoped to ensure that every American who wanted to leave Gaza was able to do so safely.

Sullivan backs Israel on Hamas command centre claims 

Sullivan didn’t dispute claims by Israel that Hamas has a command centre underneath the al-Shifa medical centre — something the group, designated as a terrorist operation by the US, has denied.

Sullivan said Hamas “in this conflict” was using hospitals and other civilian facilities as shields.

US officials were having “an active conversation” with the IDF about the matter, Sullivan said on CBS. “The bottom line is, we don’t want to see firefights in hospitals.”

Tel Aviv stocks fall as missiles fired from Lebanon hit civilians  

Israel’s TA-35 benchmark stock index fell by the most in three weeks after anti-tank missiles fired from Lebanon injured six Israeli civilians, leaving one in critical condition. Some of the civilians were electric company workers who had come to repair power lines damaged in a previous fire.

The TA-35, which had shown moderate gains earlier, reversed direction to fall by as much as 2%. The index was down almost 7% for the year but was holding above the lows set in late October, with shifting perceptions on the potential for a broader regional conflict accounting for much of the day-to-day volatility.

Gaza ‘integral’ part of Palestine, says official

The Palestinian Presidency’s spokesperson called Gaza “an integral part of Palestinian territory” that falls under the responsibility of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Separation won’t be allowed regardless of ongoing threats, Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

Netanyahu on Saturday ruled out the possibility of the Palestinian Authority governing Gaza, saying the group hadn’t condemned Hamas’ 7 October attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel. The authority was expelled from Gaza by Hamas in 2007 and now controls only parts of the West Bank.

Russia begins evacuating citizens from Gaza

Russia’s emergency situations ministry said it had begun to evacuate Russian citizens who wanted to leave Gaza and that those individuals were already crossing the checkpoint into Egypt. More than 60 Russians have crossed so far.

A Russian Foreign Ministry official met Israel’s ambassador in Moscow on Thursday to discuss “unblocking” the process for evacuations from the Gaza Strip, Interfax earlier reported. The state-run RIA news agency reported on Friday that dozens of Russians were preparing to leave Gaza.

Ukraine had so far evacuated 214 of its citizens from the Gaza Strip, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.

Al-Quds Hospital ‘no longer operational’

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City was out of service and no longer operational.

The hospital ceased operations “due to the depletion of available fuel and power outage”, the medical organisation said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel announces another evacuation window 

The IDF said civilians in the northern part of the Gaza Strip could use Salah El-Din Street, a main artery in the besieged territory, to move south between 9am and 4pm on Sunday.

There would also be a “temporary tactical cessation of military activities” near Jabalia and Ezbet Mlin to allow supplies, the IDF said, without elaborating.

Israel says it’s giving Gaza medical help 

Israel said it was “committed to facilitating various forms of medical assistance” to Gaza, as fighting surrounded the Palestinian territory’s major northern hospitals.

In a post on X, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, an Israeli agency, listed initiatives including the entry of 189 trucks with medical equipment to Gaza, coordinating with Jordan for it to airdrop medical supplies, and planned field hospitals in southern Gaza.

Israel fighting in Shati refugee camp 

Israeli troops have been fighting in the northern Gaza camp in the past day, according to the military, which said it “uncovered terrorist infrastructures and eliminated terrorists”. It wasn’t possible to independently verify the claims.

Shati is the third largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight camps, with more than 90,000 refugees registered as of earlier in 2023, according to the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees.

Gaza hospitals hit as Israel intensifies assault

Several hospitals in Gaza City and northern Gaza were directly hit after Israel intensified its military assault, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update.

Power at the Indonesia and Shifa hospitals reportedly cut off after fuel ran out, it said. Two babies died at Shifa after life support ceased working while 37 babies in incubators were at imminent risk of death, OCHA said, citing the Health Ministry in Ramallah in the West Bank.

OCHA official Martin Griffiths said, “There can be no justification for acts of war in healthcare facilities, leaving them with no power, food or water, and shooting at patients and civilians trying to flee.”

WHO loses communication with al-Shifa Hospital  

The World Health Organization said it had lost communication with its contacts at al-Shifa Hospital, a major facility in northern Gaza that was said to be encircled by Israeli troops.

“As horrifying reports of the hospital facing repeated attacks continue to emerge, we assume our contacts joined tens of thousands of displaced people who had sought shelter on the hospital grounds and are fleeing the area,” the WHO said in a statement. “There are reports that some people who fled the hospital have been shot at, wounded and even killed.”

Netanyahu pushes back on ceasefire demands

Israel would not stop military operations in Gaza until it achieved victory, Netanyahu said, rejecting rising international calls for a ceasefire.

“No international pressure, or false accusations against Israel, will change our faith in the righteousness of our way and our duty to defend ourselves,” he said in a televised news conference.

Addressing Macron’s claims that Israel was killing civilians, including women and children, Netanyahu said Israel did not need to be lectured. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    “Sullivan didn’t dispute claims by Israel that Hamas has a command centre underneath the al-Shifa medical centre — something the group, designated as a terrorist operation by the US, has denied.”

    The single line, in all of Daily Maverick’s published articles, given that Hamas is operating out of hospitals.

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