A man mourns during a funeral in Gaza

A man mourns during a funeral in the central Gaza Strip on November 21, 2023.

(Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel-Hamas Hostage Deal Reportedly in 'Final Stages'

The leader of Hamas and Israel's prime minister both confirmed progress on a potential agreement to pause fighting and release hostages.

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Israel and Hamas are reportedly on the verge of a deal that would involve the release of hostages and a pause in bombing that has killed more than 13,000 people in Gaza and intensified the strip's humanitarian crisis.

An unnamed source briefed on the talks toldReuters on Tuesday that negotiations are in the "final stages" and a deal is "closer than it has ever been" since October 7, when a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel killed around 1,200 people.

The Qatar-mediated deal, according to Reuters, "envisages the release of around 50 civilian hostages by Hamas and of female and minor-aged Palestinian detainees from Israeli custody, as well as a multi-day pause in fighting."

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh confirmed Tuesday that a "deal on a truce" with Israel is "close." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "we are making progress" on a hostage agreement and hopes "there will be good news soon."

Netanyahu rejected a similar proposal earlier this month.

News of a potential deal comes after six weeks of Israeli bombing that has leveled much of the Gaza Strip, destroying homes and other civilian infrastructure, killing thousands of children, and displacing more than a million people. Additionally, Israel's siege has prevented adequate humanitarian aid from reaching desperate Gazans, leaving virtually the entire population at risk of starvation and forcing hospitals in the northern part of the strip to shut down.

A spokesperson for Gaza's Health Ministry told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the occupancy rate in northern Gaza's hospitals has reached 190%, overrun with victims of Israeli airstrikes.

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said in a speech Tuesday that "the people of Gaza are not safe anywhere: not at home, not under the U.N. flag, not in a hospital, not in the north, and not in the south."

"More than 900,000 people are sheltering in UNRWA installations, including in the north," said Lazzarini. "The conditions in these shelters are indescribable. They are massively overcrowded and shockingly unsanitary. On average, 150 people share a single toilet and 700 people share a single shower when available. These are breeding grounds for despair and disease."

A negotiated multi-day pause could allow additional humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, but it's unlikely that will be enough to alleviate emergency conditions in the Gaza Strip.

"We need an immediate humanitarian cease-fire," Lazzarini said. "We need respect for international humanitarian law so civilians are protected, and humanitarian organizations can work unhindered. We need a meaningful supply of humanitarian aid and commercial goods flowing into Gaza. The siege must be lifted."

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