Gaza: Mediation on hostages’ release progresses


It has been six weeks since the Palestinian militant group Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel and the conflict between the two camps continues to rage.

By Monday, Israeli army troops were stepping up their operation in the besieged Gaza Strip after the army warned on Sunday that it would “expand its operational activities in additional neighborhoods… of the Gaza Strip”.

Residents of Gaza’s largest refugee camp, Jabalia, have been warned to go to safe places.

An AFP journalist in Gaza saw smoke rising from Jabalia on Sunday.

According to a Hamas health official, more than 80 people died during two attacks on Jabalia on Saturday. One of the attacks was allegedly carried out on a United Nations (UN) school where the homeless are hiding.

Volker Turk, the UN’s human rights chief, on Sunday described the alleged attack on the school as “horrific”.

In videos on social media, which have been verified by AFP, bodies can be seen lying on the floor of a building, where mattresses have been thrown under school desks.

Israel’s military admits that Jabalia is currently one of its focus areas.

However, the Israeli army made no mention of the two alleged attacks, but did say “an incident in the Jabalia region” was being investigated.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Monday that the Indonesian hospital near Jabalia also came under bombardment.

The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, called on Monday for urgent action to stop the “humanitarian disaster” unfolding in Gaza.

“The situation in Gaza affects all countries worldwide, and questions the human sense of right and wrong and the core of humanity,” Wang told visiting diplomats from Arab and Muslim-majority countries.

‘Evidence’ hostages were held at hospital

On Sunday, Israel presented what it says is evidence that Hamas has used Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, to hide foreign hostages.

The Israeli military released CCTV footage from October 7 in which two male hostages from Nepal and Thailand were seen being brought into the hospital.

“We have not yet located these hostages,” Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters.

It can be seen on the footage how a man in shorts and a light blue shirt is being dragged into an entrance hall by five men, of whom at least three were armed.

In a second video, it can be seen how an injured man in his underwear is pushed into the hospital by armed men on a hospital bed with wheels.

AFP could not immediately verify the footage.

Qatari mediators meanwhile say they are moving ever closer to an agreement to free some of the 240 hostages who have been held by Hamas militants since October 7.

Qatar’s prime minister said efforts to bring hostages “safely back to their homes” in exchange for a temporary ceasefire were now within reach.

“I am now confident that we are close enough to reach an agreement,” said Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.