Prisoner exchange with conditions between Israel and Palestine
Glimmers of hope for reaching an agreement
Despite intense clashes in Gaza, a possible hostage exchange between Israel and Hamas is underway. Armed Hamas members engaged with Israeli forces on Monday as they attempted to attack the largest refugee camp in Gaza. However, American and Israeli authorities have stated that reaching an agreement to free some of the hostages trapped in the area is not out of reach.
Approximately 240 people were taken hostage during Hamas’ deadly attacks on Israel on October 7. These terrorist attacks prompted Israel to launch an offensive against the Palestinian territory in order to eradicate the Hamas semi-military organization, which has been futilely engaged in several wars since 2007.
The Israeli army claims that tanks and Israeli forces stormed Gaza in late last month and have since gained control of vast areas in the north, northwest, and east of Gaza City. However, Hamas and local witnesses say that guerrilla fighters are active in parts of the north, densely populated urban areas including parts of Gaza City, and the mountainous refugee camps of Jabalia and Sahel.
Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said in an interview with ABC this week that Israel hopes a significant number of hostages will be released by Hamas in the coming days. Reuters reported on November 15th that Qatari mediators, citing an informed source, have been negotiating an agreement between Israel and Hamas to exchange 50 hostages for a three-day ceasefire in order to increase the delivery of emergency and humanitarian aid to non-combatants in Gaza. At that time, the source said that the general outlines of the agreement had been established, but Israel is still negotiating the details.
On Monday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar, said in a press conference in Doha that the main obstacles to the agreement are now very minor and the remaining issues can be resolved with practical and logistical solutions. A White House official also said that the negotiations are progressing in a very complex and sensitive manner. John Finer, the Deputy National Security Advisor at the White House, said in an interview with ABC that he believes we are now much closer to an agreement than before.
The casualty figures are shocking and unacceptable.
Sensitive discussions about the freedom of hostages have coincided with Israel’s preparations to expand its attacks against Hamas in southern Gaza and increase airstrikes on targets that Israel considers as hiding places for Hamas militants.
However, Israel’s main ally, the United States, warned Israel on Monday not to start military operations in the south until the safety of Palestinian civilians fleeing has been ensured. The affected population in Gaza has been displaced and relocated since the start of the war, seeking refuge in hospitals or migrating from north to south, and in most cases, desperately trying to stay away from the firing line.
The Gaza government, led by Hamas, stated that since then, at least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli bombardments, including at least 5,500 children. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, reiterated his request for an immediate and humanitarian ceasefire on Monday, stating that the number of civilian casualties in Gaza is shocking and unacceptable.
Witnesses reported a fierce confrontation on Monday night between armed Hamas members and Israeli forces who attempted to advance towards Jabalia, the largest refugee camp in Gaza with a population of nearly 100,000. According to Palestinian doctors, Jabalia is a poor and crowded area that has been repeatedly bombed by Israel during the Israeli-Arab war in 1948, resulting in the deaths of many civilians. Israel claims that in these attacks, many Hamas militants, who are rooted in this area and are hiding, have been killed.
The Israeli army, through social media in Arabic, asked residents of several neighborhoods in Jabalia on Monday to relocate to the south of Gaza for their own safety. They announced that their military operations would be suspended from 10 am to 2 pm in order to maintain security.
The Ministry of Health in this region said that after the end of the 11-day ceasefire, eleven Palestinians were killed in Jabalia following an Israeli airstrike on a residential house. Palestinians also claim that the south has been bombed multiple times by Israel, indicating the emptiness of Israel’s security promises. According to Israeli statistics, approximately 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed in the unexpected Hamas attack known as Operation Thunder of Al-Aqsa on October 7, the deadliest day in the history of this country.
Israeli airstrikes ambush Hamas
In the central narrow coastal area of this region, Palestinian doctors announced that 31 people, including two local journalists, were killed in Israeli airstrikes that targeted a large number of houses in the Al-Bureij and Nusairat refugee camps. They also added that in another airstrike, a woman and her child were killed during the night in the main city of Khan Yunis in the south of the country.
In Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, dozens of Palestinians marched to mourn the deaths of 15 residents killed in an Israeli attack on an apartment building on Saturday. Heida Asfour, a relative of some of the victims, cried out in grief, saying our youth are dying, our women and children are dying. Where are the Arab presidents? The Israeli army claims that Hamas uses residential buildings and other non-military structures as cover for command centers, weapon storage facilities, missile launch sites, and extensive underground tunnel networks. However, Hamas always denies using human shields.
The armed branch of Hamas, Al-Qassam Brigades, stated that militants killed six Israeli soldiers in a clash in the village of Juhar al-Dik, east of Gaza City, after ambushing them with an anti-personnel missile and approaching them with firearms from close range. According to the latest statistics from the Israeli army, a total of 64 Israeli soldiers were killed in this confrontation.
The Death Zone in Gaza’s largest hospital.
A team led by the World Health Organization visited Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, just a few days after Israeli forces took control of the area to uproot an underground Hamas command center. They described it as a death zone.
The World Health Organization team reported signs of shooting, a hail of bullets, and a mass grave at the entrance of Al-Shifa hospital, stating that they are planning for the urgent evacuation of 291 remaining patients, including war casualties and 25 staff members.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza announced on Monday that 31 premature infants were discharged from Al-Shifa hospital in a joint operation by the United Nations and the Palestinian Red Crescent, and they will be transferred to Egypt through the southern border crossing in Rafah to receive care there. The organization stated that eight premature infants had already lost their lives at Al-Shifa due to power and medication shortages, which are crucial for specialized care.
Hundreds of other patients, employees, and displaced individuals who had taken refuge in Al-Shifa left on Saturday. Palestinian health authorities claimed that they were forcibly expelled by Israeli soldiers in an inhumane manner, an allegation that has been denied by the Israeli army, who stated that their departure was voluntary.
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