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Middle East Crisis

US and Israel deny that agreement for hostage release and five day Gaza cease-fire is close

US and Israel deny that agreement  for hostage release and  five day Gaza cease-fire is close
People search through buildings, destroyed during Israeli air raids in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip on 8 November 2023. (Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images)

The White House refuted a Washington Post report Israel and Hamas had agreed to a tentative, US-brokered deal to pause fighting and free dozens of hostages.

The US said there is no agreement yet between Israel and Hamas on the release of hostages after the Washington Post said a tentative one had been reached to free dozens of women and children held in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting.

“No deal yet but we continue to work hard to get a deal,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in response to the report of a US-brokered agreement.

President Joe Biden outlined a framework for Gaza’s postwar future in an op-ed article, including no renewed Israeli occupation, unified governance by “a revitalised Palestinian Authority” and an eventual reconstruction effort that includes interim security arrangements.

“To start, Gaza must never again be used as a platform for terrorism,” Biden said in the Washington Post on Saturday. “There must be no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade, and no reduction in territory.”

In a warning to Israel, he floated the threat of US visa bans on “extremists” who attack Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.

Netanyahu Says No Hostage Deal 

Netanyahu also dismissed speculation that a deal with Hamas to release Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip was within reach.

“We haven’t seen any deal. There were many things that didn’t come to fruition,” Netanyahu said at the news conference Saturday night, as tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets to demand the hostages’ return. “When there’s something to say, we’ll say it.”

The Washington Post reported that Israel and Hamas were close to an agreement on a U.S.-brokered deal that would see a five-day pause in fighting in exchange for the release of dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza. The report quoted people familiar with the emerging terms of the deal.

In her Washington Post article, journalist  Karen De Young wrote that a six-page set of written terms would require all parties to the conflict to freeze combat operations for at least five days while an initial 50 or more hostages are released in smaller batches every 24 hours. The report did not specify how many of the 239 people believed to be in captivity in Gaza would be released under the deal. The stop in fighting is also intended to allow a significant increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance, including fuel, to enter the besieged enclave from Egypt. 

The Washington Post reported that the outline of a deal was put together during weeks of talks in Doha, Qatar, among Israel, the United States and Hamas, indirectly represented by Qatari mediators, according to Arab and other diplomats. But it remained unclear until now that Israel would agree to temporarily pause its offensive in Gaza, provided the conditions were right.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington told the Washington Post  late Saturday that “we are not going to comment” on any aspect of the hostage situation.

Hamas Says It’s Lost Contact With Some Hostages

Tens of thousands of Israelis joined families of the hostages held in Gaza at the tail end of a five-day march that reached Jerusalem on Saturday. A rally demanding the government secure the release of all the hostages will be held outside the Knesset later in the day, the public broadcaster Kan News reported.

Representatives of the hostage families will meet Saturday evening with former Defense Minister Benny Gantz and ex-IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot — members of Israel’s war cabinet — Haaretz reported.

Bloomberg reports that Hamas has lost contact with groups assigned to guard some hostages according to the spokesman of Hamas’s armed wing. He didn’t say how many of the approximately 240 hostages held in Gaza were unaccounted for.

“The fate of the captives and captors is still unknown,” the spokesman, Abu Obaida, said in a statement.

The announcement is likely to further complicate mediation efforts to release hostages in exchange for a number of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discussed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, she said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. She’s also expected to visit Jordan on Saturday.

The two agreed on the principle of no forced displacement of Palestinians and a political horizon based on a two-state solution, Von der Leyen said, thanking Egypt for its role in facilitating humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

Hamas must release more hostages in return for a significant increase in aid to Gaza and a pause in fighting, one of the US’s top Middle East envoys said on Saturday.

“The surge in humanitarian relief, the surge in fuel, the pause in fighting will come when hostages are released,” said Brett McGurk, who’s Joe Biden’s Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

McGurk, speaking at the IISS Manama Dialogue, a regional security conference in Bahrain, said the US’s approach has helped hostage negotiations so far.

The United Arab Emirates said it received the first plane carrying injured people from Gaza following its announcement that it would provide treatment for 1,000 children in Emirati hospitals.

The plane left from Egypt carrying 15 people, including children and their families, according to Afra Al Hameli, the UAE ministry of foreign affairs’ director of strategic communications.

Attacks on Jabalia refugee camp

The Guardian  reported that airstrikes on crowded UN shelters in north Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp killed more than 80 people on Saturday, as Israeli plans to expand operations into south Gaza, deepening  fears for hundreds of thousands of civilians who have sought refuge there.

 AFP reported that at least 50 people were killed in a dawn attack on a UN-run school in the Jabalia camp, and a strike on another building there killed 32 members of a single family – 19 of them children.

In response to this latest attack UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on X. “Shelters are a place for safety. Schools are a place for learning. Tragic news of the children, women and men killed while sheltering at al-Fakhouri school in northern Gaza.”

Army Says Gaza Attack Widening to More Neighborhoods

Israel is expanding the attack on Hamas to additional areas of northern Gaza, killing “numerous” militants and striking underground infrastructure and other “significant” targets in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood and in Jabalya, according to an IDF statement Saturday.

The army said Jabalia hosts one of Hamas’s “most significant terror strongholds,” including the command and control center of its Northern Gaza Brigade.

This report has been sourced from  Bloomberg, AFP, Reuters, the Washington Post and  The Guardian

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ken Shai says:

    Last thing Netaniyahu wants is to have any hostages released by Hamas. As long as Hamas is holding hostages, Netaniyahu can continue with conducting his war to destroy Gaza population so that it can be later populated by Israeli settlers like in the Bible, that is needed for him to stay in power and avoiding to go to jail on corruption charges. Netaniyahu disrupts every single attempt by Hamas to get any number of hostages released for example he blocked release of double citizenship hostages. You have to read the books on psychiatry of narcissism such as ” Snakes in Suites” to understand him, and this is where Hamas made a major miscalculation thinking Israeli government will want Israeli hostages to be released, and that they can even get Palestinian prisoners in return. For Netaniyahu, a life of an Israeli hostage just like a life of a Palestinian civilian is not worth more than a life of a mosquito, and the only person in the world that he loves is himself, but he loves himself passionately to oblivion. Netaniyahu is just pretending to negotiate for hostage release and his biggest fear is that those negotiations are successful!

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