Israel-Palestine conflict: Deal reached on hostages, fighting pause

Israel approves Hamas deal: 50 hostages released for 150 Palestinians, accompanied by a 4-day ceasefire

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 (photo: DW)
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 (photo: DW)


  • 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

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."

US considers designating Houthis as terrorist group

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

Over 10,000 Israeli troops in Gaza, report says

More than 10,000 Israeli soldiers are currently deployed in the Gaza Strip as part of Israel's ground offensive, Israeli newspaper Haaretz cited the Israeli army as saying.

Most of the troops are located in the Gaza City neighborhoods of Zeitoun and Jabalia, according to Haaretz.

It added that several Israeli forces have been killed by friendly fire since the start of the offensive in late October.

The incidents are being investigated to draw out future lessons, the military said.

Israeli media has put the military death toll since the offensive began at 66 soldiers.

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Published: 22 Nov 2023, 8:46 AM