Hamas Leader Says Truce Agreement with Israel is Near, Raising Hopes for Hostage Release
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced on Tuesday that a truce agreement with Israel is within reach, raising hopes for the release of dozens of hostages taken during the October 7 attacks. Negotiators have been working tirelessly to secure a deal to free the estimated 240 hostages held by Palestinian militants, the majority of whom are Israeli civilians, including young children and elderly individuals.
So far, only a few hostages have been released or their bodies recovered, while the whereabouts of the rest remain unknown. It is believed that they are being held in Gaza, where Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in response to the deadly October 7 raids by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
Sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian militant group involved in the attacks, have confirmed that they have agreed to the terms of a truce deal. The tentative agreement includes a five-day ceasefire on the ground and limits on Israeli air operations over southern Gaza. In return, between 50 and 100 hostages held by the Palestinian militant groups would be released, including Israeli civilians and individuals of other nationalities, but no military personnel.
Additionally, the proposed deal would also see the release of around 300 Palestinians, including women and children, from Israeli jails. US President Joe Biden expressed his belief on Monday that a deal to free the hostages was close, as talks mediated by Qatar gained momentum. Qatar has a political office for Hamas and maintains diplomatic links with Israel.
Apart from securing the release of hostages, the agreement could bring relief to the people of Gaza who have endured more than six weeks of Israeli bombardment and a growing ground offensive. Large parts of Gaza have been destroyed by thousands of airstrikes, and the territory is under siege with limited access to food, water, and fuel. The proposed deal would also allow for the entry of up to 300 trucks carrying food and medical aid into Gaza.
Israel, however, remains cautious about allowing fuel into the strip due to concerns that it could be used by Hamas for rocket attacks or other paramilitary purposes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until Hamas is crushed and the hostages are released.
Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza remains dire, with medics and patients caught in the crossfire. Israel expanded its operation across the north of the territory, striking the Indonesian Hospital and deploying tanks and armored vehicles around its outskirts. The hospital is located near Gaza’s largest refugee camp, Jabalia, which has become a new focal point of the war and has experienced intense Israeli bombing in recent days.
The World Health Organization has expressed its outrage at the strike on the Indonesian Hospital, which is one of 164 documented attacks on health facilities and workers since the war began. The organization called on the world not to remain silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are turned into scenes of death and devastation.
The Indonesian Hospital, funded by donations from Indonesia, has been a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza for almost a decade. Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi strongly condemned the Israeli attack on the hospital, describing it as a clear violation of international humanitarian law. The ministry is currently trying to establish contact with three Indonesian volunteers believed to have been working at the hospital.
As negotiations for a truce agreement continue, there is cautious optimism that a deal will soon be reached, bringing an end to the suffering of both hostages and the people of Gaza. The international community continues to monitor the situation closely, urging all parties involved to prioritize the protection of civilians and adhere to international humanitarian law.