Hamas says a truce and hostage deal with Israel is getting closer

Beirut, Nov. 21, (dpa/GNA) – A Hamas Politburo member said on Tuesday that the Islamist group is close to reaching a truce agreement in Gaza even as fierce fighting continues in the Palestinian territory.
The statement supports assertions by Israeli, US and Qatari officials in recent days that progress was being made in a deal to free some of the hostages held in the besieged coastal strip.
“We are much closer to reaching a truce agreement, and we hope that this will happen soon,” Izzat al-Risheq, a member of the Political Bureau of Hamas, told the al-Araby TV channel, according to Hamas’ official Telegram channel.
Al-Risheq blamed Israel for delays in implementing the deal, which he said would also involve the release of women and children being held hostage in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
“If an agreement is announced, it will be acceptable and satisfactory to us and will express the demands of the resistance … We will not go into the details of the currently anticipated agreement, and when it is reached, the brothers in Qatar will announce it.” he added.
Qatar has been a key mediator in the negotiations to free the captives in Gaza.
The White House expressed optimism on Monday night.
“I don’t want to negotiate in public but but we believe we’re getting closer,” National Security Council Communications Director John Kirby said. “We’re still working this hour by hour.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Tuesday morning that more than 250 Hamas sites in Gaza had been hit over the past day, including missile launch positions.
Rockets were fired towards Israel once again overnight, triggering an air-raid siren on the border region. There were no reports of damage or injuries.
Hamas and other Palestinian militants have fired thousands of rockets since the war began on October 7 with the massacre of 1,200 people in Israel.
Many rockets are intercepted by Israeli air defences and some fall short and land inside Gaza. Since Israel’s ground operations began on October 28, the number of launches has decreased significantly.
The ground offensive was progressing on Tuesday with the complete encirclement of Jabalia in northern Gaza. Israel describes the densely populated area as a Hamas stronghold and has been conducting operations there for weeks.
The IDF said it was readying for “battle” in Jabalia. It said it had targeted three Hamas tunnel entrances and killed a number of militants in recent hours. Photo and video footage showed huge craters and destroyed houses.
Jabalia is home to the largest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The UN says it is 1.4 square kilometres in size and has 116,000 registered refugees.
According to UN estimates, a further 25,000 people fled from the north of Gaza to the south on Monday.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on Tuesday that thousands had to camp out in the open despite heavy rainfall because the emergency shelters in the relatively safer south were overcrowded.
Many had set up camp next to the shelters with the few possessions they had, hoping to be able to have access to food and drinking water.
According to estimates by the Palestinian statistics authority, 800,000 people were still in the embattled north at the end of last week. Since then, tens of thousands have fled daily past Israeli military posts to the south.
Meanwhile, staff and equipment to establish a new field hospital have arrived in the Gaza Strip.
A total of 180 doctors and nursing staff as well as around 40 lorries with the necessary equipment travelled from Egypt to the Gaza Strip on Monday, OCHA said Tuesday.
The hospital is to be built in the city of Khan Younis in the south of the territory.
The Jordanian royal family is spearheading the effort. The hospital will have 40 beds as well as an intensive care unit and surgical facilities. It is the second Jordanian field hospital in the Gaza Strip.
After weeks of war, the hospitals still functioning in Gaza are overwhelmed by patients and suffering from severe shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies.
Many have also come under attack from the Israeli military, which accuses Hamas of using the hospitals for terrorist purposes and of treating the civilians inside as “human shields.”
In the north of the country there were renewed clashes between Israeli forces and the Lebanese Hzebollah militia, which is backed by Iran.
An 80-year-old woman was killed and her granddaughter was injured in Israeli retaliatory shelling, shortly after the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement claimed they had targeted an Israeli post in northern Israel, Lebanese security sources said.
The Israeli army said that it had come under fire and responded. It said it had struck struck “three armed terrorist cells” in the border region and military infrastructure and structures “used for directing terrorist activity.”