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Israel-Hamas war: Deal reached on hostages, fighting pause

Published November 21, 2023last updated November 22, 2023

Israel's Cabinet has signed off on a deal to temporarily halt fighting in Gaza and ensure the release of some hostages taken by the Hamas militant group. DW has more.

Israelis in Tel Aviv protest for the release of hostages being held by Hamas
Israelis have demonstrated in the streets, urging their government to do whatever it takes to bring the hostages home Image: Ariel Schalit/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Netanyahu defends hostage deal with Hamas as 'the right decision'
  • 2 journalists were reported killed near the Lebanese border with Israel
  • Over 10,000 Israeli troops deployed in Gaza, according to Israeli media 

This live updates article has been closed. For the latest on the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, please click here

Skip next section Israeli cabinet approves deal for release of hostages, pause in fighting
November 22, 2023

Israeli cabinet approves deal for release of hostages, pause in fighting

The Israeli cabinet approved in the early hours of Wednesday a deal with Hamas which would lead to the release of Israeli hostages.

According to Israel, 50 Israeli hostages taken by the militant group Hamas during the October 7 terror attacks will be freed — all of them women and children. 

In exchange, Hamas said Israel will release 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails. 

The deal also includes a four-day cease-fire. Israel said it would extend the lull by an additional day for every 10 hostages released by Hamas.

Ahead of the deal's approval, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed a pause in fighting would not mean the end of the war on Hamas.

"We will continue the war until we achieve all of our war aims: To eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and our missing, and ensure that there is no element in Gaza that threatens Israel," he said in a video released on social media.

Netanyahu argued that under the deal "not only will the war effort not be harmed, it will enable the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to prepare for the continuation of the fighting."

The Israeli prime minister had told the cabinet that accepting the deal with Hamas was "a difficult decision but it's a right decision."

Skip next section 'World not screaming hard enough for Israeli hostages,' relative tells DW
November 22, 2023

'World not screaming hard enough for Israeli hostages,' relative tells DW

Abbey Onn, a US-Israeli and relative of several hostages taken by Hamas on October 7, told DW that not enough global attention is being paid to the hostage situation.  

"We are sad about every loss of life, but it feels like the world is not screaming hard enough for these innocent civilians that are being held hostage," she told DW.

Out of her five relatives who were kidnapped by militants, two were subsequently murdered.

Hamas took around 240 hostages during its deadly cross-border rampage into Israel and killed 1,200 more, prompting retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza which Hamas officials say have killed over 13,300 Palestinians, including at least 5,600 children.

Israel, the US and Hamas said that a deal to release some of the hostages was close. This would reportedly include a temporary halt in fighting and release of Palestinian prisoners.

Onn said that the families are well aware of the complexities and of the potential risk posed by a cease-fire to Israeli soldiers in Gaza. But they say that, if a prisoner swap is required, then the government should do it.

"If it means that we get our families home, then it's a no-brainer for me. I don't know what else can be done. [Give them] the prisoners and bring our families home. We can figure [the rest] out at another point."

Hamas militant group says hostage deal 'close'

Skip next section Israeli government meeting to vote on hostage deal
November 21, 2023

Israeli government meeting to vote on hostage deal

Israel's full Cabinet of ministers is currently meeting to discuss and eventually vote on whether to approve a deal that could see the release of some hostages who were taken by Hamas militants on October 7.

The Cabinet meeting comes on the heels of similar talks that were convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his War Cabinet and Security Cabinet.

Ahead of the expected vote by the full Cabinet, Netanyahu said that the government was facing a difficult decision, but put his support behind the deal.

Exact details on the deal have not been officially released, although media reports suggest several hostages could be released in exchange for a halt to fighting in Gaza.

Israel, Hamas closer to agreeing to hostage release deal

Skip next section US considers designating Houthis as terrorist group
November 21, 2023

US considers designating Houthis as terrorist group

 A 2018 picture of the British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship Galaxy Leader
The Galaxy Leader and its 25 international crew members were captured by Yemen's Houthis on SundayImage: Owen Foley/REUTERS

The United States could designate Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization following their seizure of a cargo ship in the Red Sea.

"We have begun a review of potential terrorist designations and we'll be considering other options together with our allies and partners as well" in light of the ship's seizure, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

He also urged for the Houthis to "release that ship immediately — as well as the crew — and unconditionally."

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, captured the ship on Sunday along with its 25-member international crew. Days earlier, the Houthis threatened to target Israeli shipping over the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.

The vessel, called the Galaxy Leader, is a British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship.

The US previously designated the Houthis as a "terrorist organization," but removed the designation in February 2021, saying the classification had complicated the response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Skip next section South Africa's parliament votes to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel
November 21, 2023

South Africa's parliament votes to suspend diplomatic relations with Israel

Lawmakers in South Africa have voted to close the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria.

The largely symbolic resolution also calls for South Africa to temporarily suspend all diplomatic ties with Israel until a cease-fire is agreed for Gaza.

Israel recalled its ambassador to South Africa for consultations on Monday ahead of the vote.

The measure, which was brought by an opposition party, was supported by President Cyril Ramaphosa's ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Ramaphosa's government will have the final say on whether the measure is implemented.

Earlier on Tuesday, the South African president hosted a virtual meeting of fellow BRICS leaders to discuss the conflict.

During the meeting, Ramaphosa was critical of the Israeli government's actions in the ongoing conflict. He also accused Israel of war crimes and "genocide" in Gaza. Israel has rejected the accusations.

Skip next section China's Xi calls for 'international peace conference'
November 21, 2023

China's Xi calls for 'international peace conference'

Chinese President Xi Jinping told other BRICS leaders on Tuesday that an "international peace conference" should be convened to try to find a solution to "the question of Palestine." 

"There can be no sustainable peace and security in the Middle East without a just solution to the question of Palestine," Xi said, speaking through an interpreter. "China calls for an early convening of an international peace conference that is more authoritative to build international consensus for peace." 

Xi said that such a conference would "work toward an early solution to the question of Palestine that is comprehensive, just and sustainable." 

He said that China had been pushing for peace talks and a cease-fire since the conflict's outbreak following Hamas' October 7 terror attack against Israel. 

Xi also noted that China had been providing humanitarian aid to try to ease the plight of civilians, and said that it would continue to do so. 

Skip next section EU says probe found no evidence of Palestinian aid reaching Hamas
November 21, 2023

EU says probe found no evidence of Palestinian aid reaching Hamas

The European Commission has said a review of its development aid to Palestinians had found no evidence of funds going to Hamas, and said its frozen aid program would therefore continue without delay. 

"The review found no indications of EU money having directly or indirectly benefitted the terrorist organization Hamas," the Commission's Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said. 

The EU froze its aid to Palestinians soon after the October 7 attack, with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the time saying it was necessary to check common claims that such donations often ended up in Hamas' hands. 

"The review has confirmed that the safeguards in place are efffective," von der Leyen said on Tuesday. "Work is now ongoing on the design of our future support to the Palestinians in view of the changing and still evolving situation." 

Skip next section BRICS talks: Putin says group could play 'key role' in cease-fire talks
November 21, 2023

BRICS talks: Putin says group could play 'key role' in cease-fire talks

Leaders of the BRICS countries, and some invited guests, are participating in a special online meeting to discuss the fighting in the Middle East. 

BRICS is currently made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. It agreed earlier this year to expand by adding Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the meeting that the organization could play a role in trying to negotiate a cessation of hostilities in the region, blaming the US for only limited diplomatic progress on the issue to date. 

"We call for the joint efforts of the international community aimed at de-escalating the situation, a cease-fire and finding a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And the BRICS states and countries of the region could play a key role in this work," Putin said, without elaborating on how this might be achieved. 

Putin has often sought to blame the US or the West more generally for the lacking progress implementing a two-state solution in the region in recent decades, a charge he repeated on Tuesday. 

"Due to the sabotage of UN decisions, which clearly provide for the creation and peaceful coexistence of two independent and sovereign states — Israel and Palestine — more than one generations of Palestinians has been brought up in an atmosphere of injustice towards their people, and the Israelis cannot fully guarantee the security of their state," Putin said. 

Skip next section Israel's Netanyahu says 'making progress' in negotiations
November 21, 2023

Israel's Netanyahu says 'making progress' in negotiations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday addressed the Qatar-mediated negotiations, following an array of comments from Palestinians, Qataris and US officials involved in the talks raising hopes that an accord might be close. 

"We are making progress," Netanyahu told Israeli reservists, according to a statement published by his office. "I don't think it's worth saying too much, not even at this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon." 

Earlier comments from other parties to the negotiations had been similarly optimistic, albeit without anybody claiming that a deal was done. 

Netanyahu's office also said that "in light of developments in the matter of the release of our hostages," the prime minister would convene his war cabinet at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT/UTC), his broader security cabinet an hour later, and his entire cabinet an hour after that. 

In Qatar, which is mediating the talks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari told reporters on Tuesday that "We are at the closest point we ever had been in reaching an agreement," adding that "we're very optimistic, very hopeful."

Skip next section UK calls for release of ship hijacked by Houthis
November 21, 2023

UK calls for release of ship hijacked by Houthis

The United Kingdom on Tuesday condemned the hijacking of the Galaxy Leader commercial ship by Houthis in the Red Sea, calling for the immediate release of the vessel and its crew.

"The United Kingdom condemns the unlawful seizure of MV Galaxy Leader by the Houthis in the Red Sea and we call for the immediate, and unconditional, release of the ship and its crew," a spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said on Tuesday. 

This follows a similar appeal late on Monday from the US State Department that referred to the seizure as a "flagrant violation of international law."

The ship's owner, Galaxy Maritime Ltd, also issued a statement about its vessel on Monday, saying it was in the region of the port of Hodeida in Yemen. 

It said the ship was "illegally boarded by military personnel via a helicopter" on November 19. Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis has released video footage online seemingly confirming this.

"All communications were subsequently lost with the vessel," the Isle of Man registered company said. "The company, as a shipping concern, will not be commenting further on the political or geopolitical situation." 

Israel had referred to the ship's hijacking as an "Iranian act of terrorism," given the Houthis ties to Iran. The Houthis, meanwhile, had described the British-owned, Japanese-operated vessel with a multinational crew as an "Israeli" ship.

Skip next section Lebanese media reports 2 journalists killed near Israeli border
November 21, 2023

Lebanese media reports 2 journalists killed near Israeli border

Lebanon's state news agency has said that two journalists working for a Lebanese TV channel and a third person were killed by a rocket strike near the border with Israel. 

The agency said the incident took place near the town of Teir Harfa, a short distance from the Israeli border. 

Al Mayadeen TV, the outlet which employed the reporters, alleged that Israel had carried out the attack and deliberately targeted the journalists. The state-run National News Agency described the incident as "enemy bombing." Israel's military did not immediately comment. 

Cross-border violence between Israel and the Lebanese Iran-backed Hezbollah group has taken place sporadically since Hamas' October 7 attacks and Israel's retaliation, but to date only on a comparatively small scale amid repeated calls not to allow the conflict to spread beyond Gaza

Nevertheless, the fighting has been the worst at the border since Israel and Hezbollah's war in 2006, with 70 Hezbollah fighters, 13 Lebanese civilians, seven Israeli troops and three Israeli civilians reported dead so far. 

Skip next section UN chief says Gaza should not become a 'UN protectorate'
November 21, 2023

UN chief says Gaza should not become a 'UN protectorate'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the Gaza Strip should not become a "UN protectorate" if Hamas is forced from power after the war.

Guterres said the UN supports a transitional phase involving the US and Arab states.

"Everybody needs to come together to make the conditions for a transition, allowing for a strengthened Palestinian Authority, to assume responsibility in Gaza and then, based on that, to finally move [...] in a determined and irreversible way to a two-state solution."

Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU, along with other states, has been in power in Gaza since 2007 after winning a legislative election and ousting the rival Palestinian Authority by force.

A two-state solution calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state coexisting with Israel.

"I think we need a multi-stakeholder approach in which different countries, different entities, will cooperate," said Guterres.

"For Israel, of course, the US is the main guarantor of its security. For Palestinians, the neighboring and Arab countries of the region are essential," he added.

What is the two-state solution?

Skip next section German foreign minister urges 'international responsibility' in Gaza
November 21, 2023

German foreign minister urges 'international responsibility' in Gaza

In an interview with DW on Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for the international community to play a role in Gaza to protect civilians after the current conflict between Israel and Hamas ends.

"In order to ensure security, we need international responsibility," Baerbock said.

She also said Germany was working in partnership with the US and some Arab countries to ensure that people in Gaza "have safe places where they won't be killed, where they can access clean drinking water and medication."

During a trip to Israel last month shortly after the conflict broke out, Baerbock said she told the Israeli government "that the people in Gaza must be protected."

"Their fight is with a terrorist organization, Hamas, who want to destroy Israel, and not with civilians in Gaza, innocent people, women and children, innocent Palestinians," she said.

Germany, along with Israel, the European Union, the United States and others, classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Germany's Baerbock rejects calls for cease-fire in Gaza

Skip next section Hamas leader says temporary 'truce' is close
November 21, 2023

Hamas leader says temporary 'truce' is close

The militant group Hamas has said it was inching closer to a "truce."

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar where Hamas has a political office, said in a statement released on Telegram and carried by news agencies that "we are close to reaching a deal on a truce." He did not elaborate on details. 

Negotiators, including Qatari mediators, have been working toward a deal that would secure the release of the more than 200 hostages being held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks.

The US government has also said that a potential deal is close.

"We believe we're getting closer," said White House national security spokesman John Kirby.

"We're still working this hour by hour," Kirby added.

In earlier comments, Kirby said negotiators were prioritizing the release of women, children and US citizens.

US President Joe Biden has also said a deal is near.

Israel has not yet commented on the latest statements by Hamas concerning the potential truce. 

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by several countries including the US, Israel and Germany, as well as the European Union.

Qatar PM: Hamas hostage deal close

Skip next section ICRC president talks 'humanitarian issues' with Hamas leader
November 21, 2023

ICRC president talks 'humanitarian issues' with Hamas leader

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has met with the leader of the militant group Hamas in Qatar to "advance humanitarian issues," the committee said on Monday.

ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric met Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, then separately met Qatari authorities acting as mediators in the conflict.

The meeting was part of discussions with all parties to the conflict to improve respect for international humanitarian law.

The ICRC is not involved in the negotiations surrounding the hostages' release, the committee said. 

Gaza hospitals face difficult task of evacuating patients

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