Latest developments:

  • Hamas leaders say an agreement to release hostages could be reached soon. There has been no comment from Israel.
  • Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, citing a source involved in the negotiations, says Qatar will publish details of the deal on Tuesday. Qatar has been involved in mediation efforts.
  • Fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants is reported in an urban refugee camp near Gaza City as Israel expands its military operation in Gaza.
  • Israel recalls its ambassador to South Africa for consultations amid an expected vote by South African lawmakers on a motion to close the Israeli embassy.
  • South Africa Tuesday hosts a virtual meeting of BRICS emerging economies to discuss the war in Gaza. Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is a BRICS member, is expected to join the talks via video conference.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh says a truce deal with Israel on hostages is “close,” as Israel continues is assault on Gaza in response to the militant group’s deadly assault on Israel in early October. There has been no immediate comment from Israel.

According to the Reuters news agency, Haniyeh made his comments in a statement and that negotiations were centered on the length of the truce, arrangements for aid delivery to Gaza and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Israel began its military campaign to wipe out Hamas after its fighters crossed into southern Israel on October 7. Israel said 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken in the terror attack. Gaza health officials say more than 13,000 Palestinians, including 5,000 children, have been confirmed killed in Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two Israeli hostages were found near Shifa Hospital in Gaza since the warfare erupted. Shifa Hospital has been a focus of Israel’s search-and-destroy missions against Hamas militants.

An opening to a tunnel that, according to Israel’s military, was used by Palestinian militants under Al Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip as seen in this screen grab taken from a handout video released by the Israel Defense Forces, Nov. 19, 2023.

U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters Monday he believes a deal to release hostages could be reached soon but declined further comment.

Recent U.S. news reports have said about 50 of the estimated 240 hostages held by Hamas — particularly women and children — could be returned to Israel, but it is not clear whether and how many Palestinian prisoners held by Israel might be freed.

The developments come two days after Michael Herzog, Israeli ambassador to the United States, told ABC’s “This Week” show that Israel is “hopeful we can get a significant number of hostages [held by Hamas] freed in the next few days,” with an accompanying short pause in the fighting, possibly lasting five days.

Herzog refused to call any cessation in fighting a cease-fire, signaling that Israel plans to resume its attack on Hamas targets after the pause ends.

Meanwhile, South Africa was set to host a virtual meeting Tuesday with members of the BRICS emerging economies to discuss the war in Gaza. Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is part of the bloc, was expected to take part via video conference.

In a related development, Israel has recalled its ambassador to South Africa.

In a statement on the social media site X, Israel’s foreign ministry said, “Following the latest South African statements, the Ambassador of Israel to Pretoria has been recalled to Jerusalem for consultations.”

This picture taken from southern Israel shows Israeli flags flying over destroyed buildings inside the Gaza Strip on Nov. 19, 2023,

This picture taken from southern Israel shows Israeli flags flying over destroyed buildings inside the Gaza Strip on Nov. 19, 2023,

South Africa recently referred Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over alleged Israeli war crimes. South Africa’s parliament is also expected to vote on whether to close Israel’s embassy. South Africa is one of the most vocal international supporters of Palestinians.

The Associated Press is reporting that Israeli troops are battling militants across northern Gaza, with fighting taking place in an urban refugee camp.

On Monday, heavy fighting erupted around a hospital in northern Gaza as Israel pressed on with its offensive against Hamas militants.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said at least 12 people were killed when a shell hit the second floor of the Indonesian Hospital.

Israel’s military says troops outside the hospital fired back at fighters within the facility but added that no shells were fired at the hospital.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi condemned the attack and blamed Israel.

“Indonesia strongly condemns the Israeli attack on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza that killed a number of civilians,” she said in a statement. “The attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. All countries, especially those with close ties to Israel, must use all their influence and capabilities, to urge Israel to stop its atrocities.”

About 600 patients, 200 health care workers and 2,000 displaced people from the Indonesian Hospital are now sheltering in southern Gaza, Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said. “The [Israeli] occupation aims to evacuate the hospital, as it did in Shifa” in Gaza City, he said.

Some relief for Gaza’s collapsing health system arrived Monday. Dozens of trucks entered the territory from Egypt with equipment from Jordan to set up a field hospital. Jordan’s state-run media said the new facility in the southern town of Khan Younis would be operating within 48 hours.

In addition, Israel says it is starting to allow about 70,000 liters of fuel each day into Gaza from Egypt, an amount that is far short of the minimum requirements for essential humanitarian operations. But it will help support food distribution and the operation of generators at hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, shelters, and other critical services.

VOA’s Eva Mazrieva, Kate Bartlett and Cindy Saine contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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