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Israel-Hamas conflict: Biden says he believes Gaza hostage release deal near

US President Joe Biden Monday said he believes that a deal to free some of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for a ceasefire is close, reported Reuters. “I believe so,” the US President said when he was asked whether a deal was near during a Thanksgiving ceremony at the White House.

Reuters had last week reported that mediators of Qatar were seeking a deal between Israel and Hamas to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire. The mediators believed that the deal would help boost emergency aid shipments to civilians in Gaza.

About 240 people, including women and children, were taken hostage during the cross-border attack by Hamas into Israel on October 7. About 33 children are among the hostages. According to Israeli data,  about 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed in this surprise assault by Hamas, the deadliest in Israel’s 75-year-old history. This surprise attack prompted Israel to invade the Palestinian territory to wipe out Hamas, which Israel considers an Islamist militant group.

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Since then, at least 13,000 Palestinians, including 5,500 children, have been killed by the unrelenting bombardment by the Israeli army, the Hamas-run government in Gaza said.

Meanwhile, 28 premature babies were evacuated from war-devastated Gaza to Egypt as the Hamas-run health ministry accused Israel of a deadly strike on the territory’s Indonesian Hospital.

The WHO said 28 premature babies evacuated from Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, had been taken to safety in Egypt through the Rafah crossing, revising down by one a number given by Egyptian media.

“All babies are fighting serious infections and continue needing health care,” the WHO said, while the Israeli army said it had “helped facilitate” the transfer.

Israel argues that Hamas has used vast tunnel networks below Al-Shifa for military purposes. It has also shown recovered weapons, and on Sunday Israel claimed that it had uncovered a tunnel but was yet to reveal evidence of a major military headquarters below ground.

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Updated: 21 Nov 2023, 12:17 AM IST

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