There are continuing indications that a temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas may be announced soon. This comes as negations between Hamas, Israel and the U.S., brokered by Qatar and Egypt, press on.
Editor's note: Latest updates on the now agreed to ceasefire deal can be read at the bottom of this post.
Before a meeting with his war cabinet Tuesday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to the airwaves, urging the Israeli government to back a deal to exchange some of the hostages held by Hamas for a pause to the fighting.
“Tonight we stand before a difficult decision, but it is the right decision,” said Netanyahu in a televised address. “All security organizations support it fully. The war has its stages, and the release of the hostages has its stages as well. But we won’t rest until we achieve total victory, and until we bring everyone back.”
Any hostage deal won’t mean the end of fighting, he added.
The war will go on until Israel meets its objectives, which were “eradicating Hamas, bringing all hostages back, and ensuring that in the day after Hamas, Gaza won’t threaten Israel.”
Regardless of these stated conditions, the realization of any deal at all to pause the fighting and release hostages that have been in captivity for a month and a half does open the door to other potential negotiations.
Earlier in the day, Ismail Haniya, the Qatar-based political leader of Hamas, said on Telegram that the group was “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel. Netanyahu later said he hoped to have “good news” about the hostages soon and convened a meeting of his war cabinet to discuss the captives.
Qatar delivered a draft of the hostage deal to the Israelis early Tuesday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Majid Al-Ansari told CNN.
Several iterations of the deal, currently under negotiations, have emerged. Most reporting suggests that talks are centering on the release of 50 to 80 hostages, none them Israeli troops, in return about 150 Palestinian women and teenagers imprisoned by Israel and a pause in fighting for as long as five days.
As the negotiations continue however, there's increasing tension within Israeli society about how to approach the issue.
While hard line Israeli politicians oppose a ceasefire, some of the families of those held by Hamas and its affiliates held protests to urge the Israeli war cabinet to agree to a deal.
Israel's advance deeper into the tunnel system under al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City continued Tuesday. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) say they breached "the blast door from the terror tunnel underneath" the hospital.
"Today we continued in exposing the Hamas subterranean [tunnel] route under the Shifa Hospital," IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in his evening address Tuesday. "We will continue to expose other hospitals in Gaza. Hamas terrorists systematically built a vast subterranean infrastructure, using patients and hospital staff as human shields. Human shields for terror. This is a war crime, is against international law, and we will continue to expose this to the world, in order to highlight this practice."
The images released by the IDF do not show anything beyond the door and The War Zone cannot independently confirm where they were taken or exactly what they show. The IDF, as well as the White House and Pentagon, have repeatedly maintained Hamas is using hospitals in Gaza as military centers. Hamas and Palestinian health officials have vociferously denied that.
The IDF set up a website listing the military items it claims it has recovered from Al-Shifa.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi told reserve troops today that their efforts inside Gaza have helped bring Hamas to the negation table to talk about releasing some of the 240 hostages it holds.
"You are doing an outstanding job," Halevi told the troops. "Seriously, it is really impressive. You entered here with force. You dealt a swift blow to Hamas' Beit Hanoun battalion. The way ahead is still long. We must be determined to take this route and deliver maximum achievements, to dismantle Hamas militarily and governmentally, to establish improved security in the communities in the southern region, and to bring back the hostages. All these things work together. You should know that your work in the ground maneuver also creates better conditions for bringing back the hostages. It hurts Hamas, it creates pressure, and we will continue this pressure."
The IDF said the 162nd Division, in collaboration with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) conducted operations in the Jabalia area of northern Gaza "to prepare the battlefield."
"The attacks on terror targets included support from fighter jets and UAVs," the IDF said. "During the battle, the division struck three tunnel shafts in the area of Jabalia, in which terrorists were hiding."
The 401st Brigade "engaged terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip, during which they killed terrorists and directed aircraft to attack from the air," the IDF said. "In addition, the forces located and destroyed rocket launchers."
Combat squads of the 551st Brigade, in collaboration with special forces, "operated north of Jabalia in order to eliminate the terror targets in the area and clear a path for divisional forces and neutralized terrorist targets in the area. During the operation, troops killed dozens of terrorists with air support, captured enemy weapons in various locations, including private houses and children’s bedrooms, and located and destroyed tunnel shafts."
The Magellan unit operates deep in enemy territory to find targets, the IDF says.
Hamas said it has carried out a number of attacks on Israeli forces in Gaza, including ambushes in Juhor Al-Dik using several different kinds of rocket launchers and rockets.
Hamas also said it carried out more strikes against Tel Aviv in response for the ongoing bombardment of Gaza.
With the Israeli economy sputtering after a month and a half of war, the IDF is releasing thousands of reservists from duty who are not taking part in ground operations in Gaza.
Fighting along the Lebanese border continues.
"Following a warning about the infiltration of hostile aircraft in the north of the country a short time ago, interceptors were launched at a number of suspicious aerial targets that crossed from Lebanese territory towards the Western Galilee area," the IDF said, adding that the incident ended without offering further details.
IDF forces also "attacked an anti-tank launcher earlier today in the Lebanese border area. Also, the IDF is now attacking targets of the terrorist organization Hezbollah."
The Hezbollah-linked Al Mayadeen media outlet said on Telegram that two of its reporters were killed by the IDF.
"We strongly condemn the Nazi occupation’s targeting of Al-Mayadeen TV journalists, correspondent Farah Omar and photographer Rabih Al-Ma’amari, who were martyred in the treacherous Zionist bombing of southern Lebanon today...The policy of killing and targeting journalists will not succeed in concealing the truth of this Nazi occupation and its continuing crimes against children and women, and the war of extermination that it is committing around the clock under the cover of President Biden and his Zionist administration."
The Committee to Protect Journalists said that as of Nov. 21, its investigations showed at least 53 journalists and media workers were among more than 14,000 killed since the war began on Oct. 7—with more than 13,000 deaths in the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank and 1,200 in Israel. The War Zone cannot independently verify casualty claims by either side.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday that she was aware of the reports about the killing of Omar and Me'mari. While she could not confirm the claim, the Pentagon condemns any attack on journalists covering this war or any others, she said.
The IDF signaling that it may move its operations in Gaza further south is raising concerns about the safety of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live or fled there. Singh said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has repeatedly reminded his Israeli counterpart to do as much as possible to protect civilians.
“The Secretary just had another call with Minister Gallant today," she said. "And it's of course something that in all of our conversations - whenever we talk to our Israeli counterparts - abiding by the law of armed conflict, upholding those humanitarian laws, is extremely important."
Singh also said the Pentagon shares a White House assessment that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group may send air defense systems to Hezbollah. That, however, has not yet happened, she added. She did not specify what kind of system, but earlier this month we reported that it was the Pantsir-S1, also known by NATO nomenclature as the SA-22 Greyhound. It is a system Russian forces used last year to fire at a U.S. Reaper drone flying over Syria.
Singh could not comment on reports that France is preparing to send its Dixmude helicopter carrier to the eastern Mediterranean to offer medical assistance in Gaza.
“Most of the medical assistance that I know that we are really focused on is making sure that humanitarian aid is getting into the region,” she said. “We are continuing to see a steady flow of trucks being able to get life-saving support medical supplies, food and other assistance into Gaza. But I just don't have anything to announce from here today on anything that any of our ships would be doing."
Singh would also not comment about whether the U.S. will stop flying surveillance missions over Gaza as part of any hostage release negotiations.
Asked whether the Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group's deployment to the region has been extended, Singh said "she remains on station. I have no announcements to make on her movement. When the Secretary feels that the Ford is ready to rotate out, we will certainly let you know, but at this moment, she remains on station in the Eastern Med."
Despite ongoing ceasefire negotiations, tensions in the region remain high, with at least two Arab governments issuing strong statements condemning Israel.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called for a global export ban on arms to Israel and said Riyadh opposes any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, according to Haaretz. Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh said that Israel had ordered the evacuation of a Jordanian field hospital in Gaza, but that it would not heed the order, the publication reported. The PM also said Jordan's army was beefing up its presence along its border with Israel and that "the peace agreement [with Israel] is considered to be paper on a shelf gathering dust as long as Israel does not respect" its obligations.
There is hope for dozens of premature babies transported out of Gaza hospitals imperiled by fighting between Israel and Hamas.
This is a developing story. We will update it when there is more news to report about the Israel-Hamas war.
Update: 8:23 PM Eastern Time -
The U.S. carried out two additional airstrikes early Wednesday morning Iraq time in response to an attack Tuesday on the Al-Asad airbase that injured about eight U.S. troops, a U.S. military official told The War Zone.
The strikes were on Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah operatives south of Baghdad in Anbar province, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss operational details. One strike was on an operations center and one was on a command and control node. The strikes were carried out with precision-guided munitions, but the official declined to say which aircraft delivered them, other than that they were crewed airframes.
A battle damage assessment is still ongoing, said the official. There were Kataib Hezbollah personnel present, but it is unknown at the moment if there were any casualties, the official told us.
The strike follows one carried out Tuesday by a U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, which you can read more about here.
Update 9:35 PM Eastern -
The agreement would see the release of at least 50 hostages – women and children – in exchange for a four-day truce in Israel’s air and ground campaign, according to a government statement. And it held out the potential for an extension, saying that an extra day would be added for each additional 10 hostages available for release. The statement made no mention of the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, though it is understood this is also a key part of the deal.
The deal could include Americans, a senior Biden administration official told reporters, including from The War Zone, Tuesday evening.
Of 10 unaccounted for Americans, one is a 3-year-old girl named Abigail who turns 4 Nov. 24, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details. There are also two women. All three could potentially be involved in the deal, which is set to take part in stages, the official said.
It is unclear at the moment when the ceasefire will go into effect.
"If we have a deal tonight, basically the implementation will begin about 24 hours or so from now, so probably about Thursday morning, Israel time," the official said. "So you will begin to see over the course of that 24 hours, the initial releases...You'll see the first first hostages come out over the course of Thursday."
As far as where the hostages will be released, the official declined to offer specifics.
"We do have various locations where the hostages will be brought out," said the official.
Update: 12:02 AM EST—
Axios has more details on the deal, which they say includes:
In the first phase of the two-phase deal, Hamas is expected to free at least 50 Israeli women and children held in Gaza, while Israel is expected to release about 150 Palestinian prisoners, mostly women and children over the four-day pause.
- Israel will allow around 300 aid trucks per day to enter Gaza from Egypt. More fuel will also be allowed in during the pause in fighting, according to an Israeli official.
- In the second phase, Hamas could release dozens more women, children and elderly people. The Israeli government said it would extend the pause for every additional 10 hostages released.
- "The starting time of the pause will be announced within the next 24 hours and last for four days, subject to extension," Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
- The Israeli Cabinet approved the deal after more than five hours of discussions.
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