Live updates | Hamas officials say hostage agreement could be reached soon

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Senior Hamas officials said Tuesday that an agreement could be reached soon in which the militant group would release hostages and Israel would free Palestinian prisoners.

Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have been negotiating for weeks over a hostage release that would be paired with a temporary cease-fire in Gaza and the entry of more humanitarian aid. Similar predictions of a hostage agreement in recent weeks have proven premature.

Israel’s army is widening its operations across northern Gaza, where they battled Palestinian militants on Tuesday in the densely populated Jabaliya refugee camp, the territory’s largest.

The military said forces are “preparing the battlefield” in the Jabaliya area, just north of Gaza City, and have killed dozens of militants in recent days. Troops discovered three tunnel shafts where fighters were hiding and destroyed rocket launchers, it said.

It wasn’t possible to independently confirm details of the fighting. A strike on a nearby hospital killed 12 people on Monday as Israeli troops and tanks battled militants outside its gates.

Israel says Hamas uses civilians and hospitals as shields, while critics say Israel’s siege and relentless aerial bombardment amount to collective punishment of the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians after Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israel.

More than 12,700 Palestinians — two-thirds of them women and minors — have been killed since the war began, according to Palestinian health authorities, who do not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. About 4,000 people are reported missing.

Some 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mostly during the Oct. 7 attack, and around 240 were taken captive by militants.

Currently:

— Israel reveals signs of Hamas activity at Shifa, but a promised command center remains elusive

— AP Photos: Babies born prematurely in Gaza have been evacuated to Egypt

— Cyprus’ president says his country is ready to ship aid to Gaza

— Ukrainians who fled their country for Israel find themselves again living with war

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s what’s happening in the latest Israel-Hamas war:

OFFICIALS OF MUSLIM NATIONS VISIT SECURITY COUNCIL PERMANENT MEMBERS TO PUSH FOR CEASE-FIRE

ANKARA, Turkey — Senior officials from eight Muslim countries and territories are visiting the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and other nations in an attempt to secure an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, a Turkish official said Tuesday.

The official said the group — made up of representatives of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Qatar, Jordan and the Palestinian territories — has already visited China and is due in Russia on Tuesday. The secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation was also taking part in the talks.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan will participate in the group’s visits to London and Paris on Wednesday, said the official, who provided the information on condition of anonymity in line with Turkish government protocol.

The group was formed on Nov. 11 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during a meeting of the OIC and the Arab League, according to the official.

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By Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey.

ISRAELI STRIKE KILLS TWO TV JOURNALISTS ALONG LEBANON-ISRAEL BORDER

BEIRUT — An Israeli strike in southern Lebanon killed two journalists for Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV who were reporting on violence along the tense Lebanon-Israel border, Lebanese Information Minister Ziad Makary and the station said Tuesday.

The Pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen TV identified the journalists as correspondent Farah Omar and cameraman Rabih Maamari. The station, which is politically allied with the militant Hezbollah group, said the journalists were killed in an Israeli airstrike.

The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.

Last week, the Israeli government blocked Al-Mayadeen TV from broadcasting in Israel.

The state-run National News Agency said Israel’s military struck the outskirts of Teir Harfa and the nearby village of Majdal Zoun.

NNA also reported that an Israeli strike on a home in the border village of Kfar Kila killed an 80-year-old woman, Laiqa Serhan, and wounded her granddaughter.

Israeli shelling of southern Lebanon on Oct. 14 killed Reuters videojournalist Issam Abduallah and wounded other journalists from Agence France-Presse and Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV.

The Lebanon-Israel border has been experiencing daily exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli troops. The clashes began a day after the Palestinian Hamas group attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostages.

IRAN-BACKED YEMEN REBELS’ ATTACK ON SHIP RAISES RISKS IN RED SEA

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The helicopter-borne Houthi attack on an Israel-linked ship in the Red Sea highlights the danger now lurking in one of the world’s key shipping routes as the Israel-Hamas war rages, as well as the rebels’ tactics mirroring those of its chief sponsor, Iran.

While Tehran has denied aiding the Yemen rebel group in launching their attack Sunday, the targeted ship before the assault passed by an American-sanctioned Iranian cargo vessel suspected as serving as a forward spying base in the Red Sea. The rebels, dressed commando-style in bulletproof vests carrying assault rifles, covered each other and moved in military formation before quickly seizing control of the bridge of the Galaxy Leader.

While their body-camera footage serves as a propaganda coup to bolster their own position in Yemen amid some protests against their rule, it also signals a new maritime front has opened in a region long focused on the Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth at the Strait of Hormuz. It also puts new pressure on commercial shippers traveling through those waters, threatens to increase insurance costs that will get passed onto consumers and likely further stretches the U.S. Navy as it tries to serve as the region’s security guarantor.

BRICS NATIONS TO DISCUSS WAR, HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders from the BRICS bloc of developing countries will hold a virtual meeting on the Israel-Hamas war on Tuesday, with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also participating.

The leaders of fellow BRICS members Brazil, India and South Africa, as well as of Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, which are set to join the bloc in January, will also take part, according to the office of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa will chair the “extraordinary meeting” because of South Africa’s position as current chair of BRICS, his office said. It said the leaders are expected to deliver statements on the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza and will likely adopt a joint statement.

The meeting comes a day after China’s top diplomat hosted the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Indonesia in Beijing, their first stop on a tour of U.N. Security Council permanent members.

PRIME MINISTERS OF SPAIN, BELGIUM TO VISIT MIDEAST FOR TALKS ON WAR

MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and Belgium’s Alexander de Croo will visit Egypt this week after traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Spanish government said.

The trip is to discuss the impact of the Hamas attack against Israel on Oct. 7, and the critical humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, it said.

Spain currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council and Belgium will take over the presidency in January.

They will meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, on Thursday. On Friday they will visit Cairo and meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and the secretary general of the Cairo-based Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

Spain, which condemned the Hamas attack and defended Israel’s right to protect itself while respecting international humanitarian law, has called for a cease-fire and an international peace conference to resolve the conflict.

HAMAS OFFICIAL SAYS AGREEMENT ON HOSTAGE RELEASE COULD COME SOON

BEIRUT — Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have been negotiating for weeks over a hostage release that would be paired with a temporary cease-fire in Gaza and the entry of more humanitarian aid.

Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two were found near Shifa.

Izzat Rishq, a senior Hamas official, said Tuesday that an agreement could be reached “in the coming hours” in which Hamas would release captives and Israel would release Palestinian prisoners. Hamas’ leader in exile, Ismail Haniyeh, also said they were close to a deal, but similar predictions in recent weeks have proven premature.

Israel’s three-member war Cabinet met with representatives of the hostages’ families on Monday evening. A relative of a hostage said the officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told families the government considers the release of hostages and the defeat of Hamas to be “equally important.”

Udi Goren, whose cousin Tal Chaimi is in captivity in Gaza, said that was “incredibly disappointing” for the families, as Israel has said it could take months to dismantle the militant group.

“We will not stop fighting until we bring the hostages home, destroy Hamas and ensure that there is no more of a threat from Gaza,” Netanyahu said on social media after the meeting.

Hamas gunmen and their allies captured more 240 hostages during their deadly Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel in which they also killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

ISRAEL RECALLS AMBASSABOR TO SOUTH AFRICA AHEAD OF VOTE ON FATE OF EMBASSY

JOHANNESBURG — Israel has recalled its ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotserkovsky, ahead of a parliamentary vote in the African country to decide the fate of the Israeli Embassy.

Tensions have risen between the two countries over Israel’s war in Gaza. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said his country believes Israel is committing war crimes and genocide in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have been killed.

“Following the latest South African statements, the Ambassador of Israel to Pretoria has been recalled to Jerusalem for consultations,” Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said late Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

South Africa’s parliament is to vote on a motion to shut down the Israeli Embassy and cut all ties with Israel until a cease-fire is implemented in Gaza.

The motion introduced by the leftist opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters has the backing of the governing African National Congress and other smaller parties.

South Africa announced last week that it has referred what it called Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza to the International Criminal Court for an investigation, with its Cabinet calling on the ICC to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

AWARD-WINNING PALESTINIAN POET ARRESTED BY ISRAELI TROOPS, BROTHER SAYS

TEL AVIV, Israel — The brother of an award-winning Palestinian poet in Gaza says he has been arrested by Israeli troops and his whereabouts are unknown.

Mosab Abu Toha has been contributing pieces to Western media since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, painting a dire image of its toll on civilians through his personal experience. His brother, Hamza Abu Toha, posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday that Mosab was arrested while evacuating to southern Gaza, following Israeli military orders. Hamza said his brother’s wife and children were allowed to continue south, but “the military detained my brother.”

Mosab Abu Toha last posted on X on Nov. 15, writing “Alive. Thanks for your prayers.”

The literary and free expression organization PEN said it was concerned about the arrest and demanded to know Abu Toha’s whereabouts and the reason for his arrest. The New Yorker magazine, to which Abu Toha has contributed multiple articles, called for his safe return.

The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.

INDONESIA CONDEMNS ISRAELI ATTACK ON HOSPITAL IN GAZA

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia strongly condemns the Israeli attack on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza which killed a number of civilians, its foreign minister said.

“The attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. All countries, especially those that have close relations with Israel, must use all their influence and capabilities to urge Israel to stop its atrocities,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said in a statement Monday.

The ministry said it has lost contact with three Indonesian citizens who were volunteers at the Indonesian Hospital, which is funded by Indonesia, and is seeking information about them from the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

About 200 people were evacuated from the hospital after it was caught up in fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants on Monday.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesperson for Hamas’ Health Ministry, said the evacuees were taken to southern Gaza in a rescue effort coordinated by the U.N. and Red Cross. Many of the injured evacuees are being treated at al-Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, he said.

Between 400 and 500 more wounded people remain at Indonesian Hospital, al-Qudra said in an interview with Al-Jazeera.

The evacuations came after 12 people were killed when a shell struck the second floor of the hospital, according to the Health Ministry and a medical worker at the hospital. Both blamed Israel, which denied shelling the hospital, saying its troops returned fire at militants who targeted them from inside the compound.

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