Israel’s Cabinet approved a cease-fire agreement with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to the devastating war that is now in its seventh week.
The Israeli government said that under an outline of the deal, Hamas is to free at least 50 of the roughly 240 hostages taken in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack over a four-day period. Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, later confirmed the deal, saying the start time will be announced in the next 24 hours and that it will last for four days.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the Cabinet voted early Wednesday that the war would continue even if a deal was reached.
Israel, the United States and Qatar 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.
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.
— Israel’s Cabinet approves a cease-fire for hostages deal with Hamas. Palestinian prisoners also to be freed.
— South Africa’s president accuses Israel of war crimes and acts “tantamount to genocide” in Gaza.
— South African lawmakers vote in favor of closing Israel’s embassy and cutting diplomatic ties.
— Bahrain government websites are briefly inaccessible after a cyberattack over the Israel-Hamas war.
— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war
Here’s what’s happening in the war:
BIDEN PRAISES HOSTAGE DEAL AND SAYS HE WON’T STOP UNTIL THEY’RE ALL RELEASED
NANTUCKET, Mass. — United States President Joe Biden said in a statement late Tuesday that he welcomes the agreement to release at least 50 hostages being held in Gaza and stressed that “it is important that all aspects of this deal be fully implemented.”
“I am extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls, who have endured weeks of captivity and an unspeakable ordeal, will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented,” said Biden, who was in Nantucket, Massachusetts, for the Thanksgiving holiday. Biden said the agreement should release some American hostages, and added, “I will not stop until they are all released.”
Biden emphasized that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has committed to supporting an “extended pause” to make sure not only all hostages are released but that humanitarian assistance can be sent to Palestinians in Gaza.
“Today’s deal is a testament to the tireless diplomacy and determination of many dedicated individuals across the United States Government to bring Americans home,” Biden said.
THE RED CROSS STANDS BY TO ASSIST ANY SWAP
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is standing by to assist any swap in the Israel-Hamas war.
“Currently, we are actively engaged in talks with the parties to help carry out any humanitarian agreement they reach,” the Red Cross said. “As a neutral intermediary, it is important to clarify that we are not part of the negotiations, and we do not make decisions on the substance of it. Our role is to facilitate the implementation, once the parties agree.”
QATAR CONFIRMS THE ISRAEL-HAMAS CEASE-FIRE AND HOSTAGE DEAL
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar has confirmed an agreement for a cease-fire and swap between Israel and Hamas, saying the start time will be announced in the next 24 hours and that it will last for four days.
The statement early Wednesday morning from Qatar’s Foreign Ministry described the talks that produced the agreement as a mediation by Egypt, the United States and Qatar for a “humanitarian pause.”
“The starting time of the pause will be announced within the next 24 hours and last for four days, subject to extension,” the statement said. “The agreement includes the release of 50 civilian women and children hostages currently held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of a number of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons, the number of those released will be increased in later stages of implementing the agreement.”
It added that the cease-fire will “allow the entry of a larger number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid, including fuel designated for humanitarian needs.” It offered no specifics on that, however.
HOSTAGES TO START BEING RELEASED ROUGHLY 24 HOURS AFTER DEAL OK’D BY ALL PARTIES, WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL SAYS
Hostage releases will begin roughly 24 hours after the cease-fire deal is approved by all parties, said a senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matters. The government of Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved the cease-fire deal that would bring a temporary halt to the devastating war
The effort to free all of the roughly 240 hostages seized by Hamas in its brazen Oct. 7 attack began when Qatar approached the U.S. and Israel and quietly established a group to coordinate, the official said.
The group’s efforts led to the release of two American citizens, Natalie and Judith Raanan. Their release proved their system could work and that intensified the process for larger-scale release, according to the official. Intense negotiations have continued since.
Associated Press reporter Colleen Long contributed from Washington.
ISRAEL’S CABINET APPROVES CEASE-FIRE WITH HAMAS INCLUDING RELEASE OF SOME 50 HOSTAGES
Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to the devastating war and release dozens of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip.
Under what the government called an outline of the deal, Hamas is to free at least 50 of the roughly 240 hostages it is holding in the Gaza Strip over a four-day period. It said it would extend the lull by an additional day for every 10 hostages released.
The government said the first hostages to be released would be women and children. It was not immediately clear when the truce would go into effect.
Netanyahu convened his Cabinet for the vote late Tuesday. The meeting stretched well into the early hours Wednesday.
FIGHTING IN JABALIYA SPILLS OVER TO HOSPITALS, AND STRIKE KILLS 3 DOCTORS
GAZA CITY — Four people, including three doctors, were killed when a hospital was struck amid intense fighting Tuesday in the Jabaliya refugee camp, the hospital director told Al-Jazeera TV.
The director of al-Awda hospital, Ahmed Mahna, blamed the strike on Israel, a claim that The Associated Press could not independently confirm. The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders confirmed that two of the doctors killed worked for it.
The group called for better protection of medical facilities, staff and patients in the besieged enclave.
“Seeing doctors killed next to hospital beds is beyond tragic, and this must stop now,” The aid group said in a post on X.
The Israeli military said Hamas fighters had retrenched in Jabaliya, a densely built district of concrete buildings near Gaza City that houses families displaced in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Israel has bombarded the area for weeks.
NETANYAHU SAYS WAR WILL CONTINUE AFTER ANY CEASE-FIRE
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel will continue its war against Hamas, even if a temporary cease-fire is reached with the Islamic militant group to release hostages.
In comments ahead of an expected Cabinet vote on a cease-fire proposal, Netanyahu vowed to press ahead.
“We are at war, and we will continue the war,” he said. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”
The Cabinet was expected to vote on a plan that would halt Israel’s offensive in Gaza for several days in exchange for the release of about 50 of the 240 hostages held by Hamas.
Israel has vowed to continue the war until it destroys Hamas’ military capabilities and returns all hostages.
EGYPT WILL TAKE ‘ALL MEASURES’ TO KEEP PALESTINIANS FROM ENTERING, PRIME MINISTER SAYS
CAIRO — Egypt’s prime minister said Tuesday that Egypt will take “all measures” to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Egypt, as the Israeli army makes preparations to enter the south of besieged Gaza.
The comments by Mostafa Madbouly in a speech in Parliament were the strongest warning yet, hinting that military force could be used.
“Egypt will not hesitate in taking all measures that guarantees the protection of its borders,” Madbouly said.
Since the start of the conflict, Egypt has continually ruled out becoming a host nation for displaced Palestinians.
The North African country fears that a mass exodus of Palestinians onto Egyptian soil would nullify Palestinian demands for statehood, and jeopardies Egypt’s security and economy,
However, Egypt has allowed thousands of dual nationals and hundreds of injured and sick Palestinians to enter through the Rafah crossing from Gaza during past weeks.
HOSTAGES DEAL COULD BUILD TRUST, SAYS WOMAN WHOSE HUSBAND AND CHILDREN WERE TAKEN
TEL AVIV, Israel — A woman whose husband and two young children were abducted when Hamas fighters stormed Israel on Oct. 7 said that a deal to bring home some hostages now could pave the way for future deals.
Hadas Kalderon talked to N12 News Israel amid reports that Hamas and Israel were close to a cease-fire that would include freeing some hostages as well as some Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Kalderon said negotiators should save whoever they can right now — “because we don’t know what will happen.”
“Who would dare vote against a deal?” she asked.
Kalderon said “she is in every dilemma possible,” acknowledging that Offer, the father of her children, could remain in captivity even if her children are released under the proposed deal.
“I still say: we are morally obligated — our responsibility is to return everyone,” she said. “But let’s be realistic.”
EU OFFICIAL: AID MONEY NOT BEING DIVERTED TO HAMAS
STRASBOURG, France — A senior European Union official said the bloc will continue to provide financial aid to the Palestinians after an investigation found that no money has been diverted to Hamas.
“The review found no indications of EU money having directly or indirectly benefited the terrorist organization Hamas,” EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters.
“Payment to Palestinian beneficiaries and UNRWA will continue without payment delays. Finally, for those projects in Gaza that are not feasible due to the war, the money will be reallocated to Gaza either as humanitarian or development aid.”
BIDEN: ‘VERY CLOSE’ TO DEAL ON RELEASING SOME HOSTAGES
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that a deal on releasing some hostages was “very close” to being finalized, and that he was hopeful they can get home to their families “very soon.”
“We’re now very close, very close. We could bring some of these hostages home very soon,” Biden said at an unrelated appearance at the White House. “Things are looking good at the moment.”
TURKEY, ALGERIA LEADERS HIT ISRAEL FOR ‘CRIMES’ IN GAZA
ALGIERS, Algeria – The presidents of Turkey and Algeria had harsh words for Israel’s actions in Gaza on Tuesday as they said they hoped for successful negotiations on the release of hostages and risoners.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government maintains ties with Hamas officials, said Turkey’s foreign minister and intelligence chief were working with Qatari officials to negotiate releases.
“We are engaged in constant talks and our expectation is to receive a positive result,” Erdogan said in a joint news conference with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
Tebboune said as regional powers, he and Erdogan would continue to push to stop “the human tragedy resulting from the crimes perpetrated by the Zionist entity in Gaza.”
Tebboune reiterated his calls to take Israel to the International Criminal Court and said “the denunciation of Israel’s crimes must be accompanied by an urgent initiative to halt the expansion of colonization in the West Bank.”
Erdogan said Israel’s actions had “turned into collective punishment and constitute war crimes.”
STRIKE HITS BASE WITH U.S. TROOPS; INJURIES MINOR
BAGHDAD — A strike hit a base housing U.S. troops in Iraq early Tuesday, causing “minor injuries to U.S. personnel and damage to infrastructure,” a U.S. military official in the country said.
The official said U.S. forces “responded in self-defense against those who carried out the strike” on al-Asad military base in western Iraq. A second defense official said “multiple” militants were killed in a strike carried out by a special operations AC-130 gunship that was already operating in the area.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Also early Tuesday, a drone strike on a highway west of Baghdad targeted two pickup trucks linked to the Kataeb Hezbollah militia, killing one militia member and injuring at least three others, two militia officials said.
The militia officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the strike hit a convoy traveling from Anbar to Baghdad. Later on Tuesday, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed militias, issued a statement announcing the death of one of its members in Iraq in what it said was a U.S. airstrike.
It was not immediately clear if the strike that killed the Kataeb Hezbollah member was the same one launched in retaliation to the attack on the al-Assad base.
The two incidents come as Iranian-backed militants have launched dozens of attacks on bases and facilities housing U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17. While most of the more than five dozen attacks have been ineffective, at least 60 U.S. personnel have reported minor injuries. The militant groups have said that the strikes are in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
—By Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Tara Copp in Washington
KEY ISRAELI DECISION-MAKING BODIES TO DISCUSS ‘ISSUE OF RELEASE OF HOSTAGES’
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has announced meetings of three key decision-making bodies late Tuesday to discuss “the issue of the release of hostages.”
A statement released by Netanyahu’s office said the special war Cabinet will convene at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), followed by meetings of the broader Security Cabinet and then the full Cabinet.
It gave no further details, but the various bodies are required to approve important government decisions.
OFFICIALS OF MUSLIM NATIONS VISIT SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBERS TO PUSH FOR CEASE-FIRE
MOSCOW — Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday hosted counterparts from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the Israel-Hamas war.
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.
Speaking at the start of the talks in Moscow, Lavrov said Russia condemns any form of terrorism, but added that “terrorism must be fought using methods that don’t amount to collective punishment and don’t contradict, or to put it bluntly, rudely violate the norms of international humanitarian law.”
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 is politically allied with the militant Hezbollah group.
Hezbollah’s media office vowed that the killing of the journalists “will not pass without retaliation.” Hours later, Hezbollah said it fired two missiles that struck an Israeli intelligence unit inside a home near Kibbutz Manara in northern Israel, killing and wounding those inside. It said the attack was in retaliation for the killing of the journalists and civilians on the Lebanese side of the border.
The Israeli military said it was looking into the matter. In a statement earlier Tuesday, it said its aircraft “struck three armed terrorist cells in the area of the border with Lebanon” in addition to Hezbollah infrastructure.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency 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.
Last week, the Israeli government blocked Al-Mayadeen TV from broadcasting in Israel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.