Israel agrees to hostage deal with Hamas

22:36, Thursday, 23 November, 2023
Israel agrees to hostage deal with Hamas

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it has arrested the director of Al-Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital.

Mohammad Abu Salmiya was detained for questioning "following evidence that the Shifa Hospital, under his direct management, served as a Hamas command and control center," the IDF said in a statement Thursday.

Abu Salmiya was reportedly arrested while evacuating from the the embattled Al-Shifa hospital as part of a convoy marshalled by the World Health Organization. In response to his arrest, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza said it had suspended cooperation with WHO and said the United Nations "bears full responsibility" for his detention.

Meanwhile, if all had gone to plan, by this time the skies in Gaza would have finally fallen silent, and some of the Israeli hostages would have returned home to their loved ones. But the Israel-Hamas truce agreement, slated to begin earlier on Thursday morning, was delayed and will not come into effect at least until Friday, diplomatic sources have told CNN.

Here are the latest developments:

Al-Shifa arrest: Abu Salmiya was reportedly arrested Thursday while evacuating with a World Health Organization convoy, a doctor in the hospital told Al-Jazeera. The IDF later confirmed it had detained Salmiya, saying "there was extensive Hamas terrorist activity" inside the hospital under his management. “He was in a constant state of denial saying it doesn’t happen. How could a General Manager of the hospital not know about the extent of the tunnel system?” an IDF spokesperson told CNN. Israel launched a “targeted” operation inside Al-Shifa last week, trapping patients, doctors, refugees and newborns inside the complex it says Hamas has used as a military base. Hamas denies the allegations.

WHO criticized: The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said it has suspended operation with the WHO after Salmiya’s arrest. Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesperson for the ministry, said the IDF on Wednesday stopped a WHO convoy at a checkpoint in central Gaza, as it was attempting to evacuate people from Al-Shifa. Al-Qidra said the IDF arrested several medical staff, including Salmiya, and as such the ministry had suspended cooperation with WHO and blamed the United Nations for failing to safeguard its staff. “The United Nations bears full responsibility for this event and we await appropriate and urgent measures on their part to address this,” the ministry said in a statement.

Truce delayed: Plans to release the first hostages under the deal Israel reached with Hamas were delayed overnight, just hours ahead of the expected beginning of a hard-negotiated pause in fighting. The truce – which would see an initial four-day pause to allow more aid to enter Gaza and the first hostages to be released – will now not begin until Friday, an Israeli official told CNN. Qatar, which has played a crucial role in the painstaking negotiations, is imminently set to announce when the truce will begin.

An agonizing wait: In the meantime, Israeli strikes in Gaza are showing no sign of relenting ahead of the pause in fighting. The IDF said Thursday it had struck more than 300 Hamas targets over the past day – a slight uptick from the 250 strikes it reported Tuesday. Further south, a large convoy of trucks carrying aid has lined up on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, on standby for when the truce finally begins.

Indonesian Hospital: Hundreds of patients and medical staff have been told by the IDF to evacuate the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza said Thursday. About 450 patients and medical staff are now traveling to the Nasser Hospital and the European Hospital in the south of Gaza, Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, the ministry's director-general, was quoted in a statement as saying. Israel stepped up its strikes on the Indonesian Hospital earlier this week, alleging that Hamas have used the building for military purposes.

Hezbollah-Iran meeting: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian is in Lebanon, where he met with the leader of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah Thursday. Nasrallah reportedly stressed the “readiness of the resistance on various fronts,” according to a statement from the Iranian Foreign Ministry. In a separate statement, Hezbollah said the two discussed the “existing possibilities regarding the course of events and efforts to stop Israeli aggression on Gaza.” The Iran-Hezbollah meeting comes amid fears that Israel’s offensive in Gaza could spiral into a broader regional

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