New Delhi: Israel and Hamas are close to reaching a deal agreeing to a five-day “pause” in fighting, Washington Post has reported. This pause would reportedly be in exchange for the release of dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza.
Israel and Hamas are currently in talks mediated by Qatar in Doha.
“A detailed, 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. It was not immediately clear how many of the 239 people believed to be in captivity in Gaza would be released under the deal. Overhead surveillance would monitor movement on the ground to police the pause,” the US daily stated. The pause is also supposed to allow substantial humanitarian relief into Gaza. Earlier, a Hamas negotiator had told The Wire that Hamas would not agree to overhead surveillance or any other movement in the skies during the pause.
US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on X (formerly Twitter) that there was no final deal yet “but we continue to work hard to get a deal”.
In an interview with Karan Thapar on Saturday, the former head of Hamas’s political bureau and presently head of Hamas’s international relations office in Doha, Dr Musa Abu Marzouq, has given extensive details of the hostage-prisoner exchange Hamas and Israel are negotiating.
Hamas will release 50 Israeli hostages in return for Israel releasing 100 Palestinian prisoners, Marzouq said. He said there were two conditions. First, Hamas wants free movement for the people of Gaza to move both north-to-south and south-to-north. He said Israel has agreed to the north-south movement but is so far not agreeing to the south-north movement.
Marzouq said the second condition is that, in addition to airstrikes completely stopping during the five-day ceasefire, there should be no movement in the skies, i.e. no reconnaissance flights or drones. So far Israel has not agreed to this condition either.
The situation in Gaza continues to draw condemnation from international organisations. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres on Sunday released a statement condemning the strikes on two UNRWA schools within 24 hours.
“Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians are seeking shelter at United Nations facilities throughout Gaza due to the intensified fighting. I reaffirm that our premises are inviolable. This war is having a staggering and unacceptable number of civilian casualties, including women and children, every day. This must stop,” the statement said.
“I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” Guterres continued. “I also want to express my deep appreciation for all the mediation efforts led by the government of Qatar.”
On Saturday, a joint UN humanitarian assessment team led by WHO accessed Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza. “The team was able to spend only one hour inside the hospital, which they described as a “death zone,” and the situation as “desperate”,” a WHO statement said later in the day.
“Lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food and other essential aid over the last 6 weeks have caused Al-Shifa Hospital – once the largest, most advanced and best equipped referral hospital in Gaza – to essentially stop functioning as a medical facility. The team observed that due to the security situation, it has been impossible for the staff to carry out effective waste management in the hospital. Corridors and the hospital grounds were filled with medical and solid waste, increasing the risk of infection. Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation. Al-Shifa Hospital can no longer admit patients, with the injured and sick now being directed to the seriously overwhelmed and barely functioning Indonesian Hospital,” the statement continued.
After the visit, 31 prematurely born babies have been evacuated from al-Shifa Hospital and taken to the European and Nasser hospitals in the south, Al Jazeera reported. Two babies died before they could be moved.
Israeli troops have been raiding the Al-Shifa hospital for days now, but has not found any evidence to corroborate its claims that the hospital sits on top of Hamas’s headquarters. The hospital has been suffering from severe shortages of food, water and fuel.