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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

'Sticking points' hold up Israel-Hamas hostage deal; talks reach 'sensitive' stage

Editor's Note: For the latest news on the Israel-Hamas conflict, please see our live updates file here.

Hostage negotiations aimed at producing a multi-day ceasefire in return for the release of some of the estimated 240 people believed held by militants in Gaza were progressing Sunday but a deal remained uncertain, officials said.

"The sticking points, honestly, at this stage are more practical, logistical, not really something to present the call-off of the deal," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who has been involved in the talks, .

Reports of various deals for the release of dozens of women and children have been circulating for weeks, but thus far only four hostages have been released and one rescued. Still, Deputy U.S. National Security Advisor Jon Finer said Sunday the talks had reached a "very sensitive" stage. He said the fate of the hostages remains an "incredibly high priority" for President Joe Biden and his entire administration.

"We’re following this minute by minute, hour by hour, and have been over a number of weeks." Finer told

Israel has been focused on crushing Hamas since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants made the now-infamous raid into Israeli border communities that left more than 1,200 dead and another 240 people captured and taken to Gaza as hostages. The Gaza Health Ministry says Israel's ensuing military campaign has .

Fuel getting to Gaza 'far from enough'to cover humanitarian needs, U.N. official says

Palestinian medics care for premature babies evacuated from Al Shifa hospital to the Emirates hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 19, 2023.


∎ Biden pitched his plan for post-war Gaza and the West Bank in a , saying the two Palestinian enclaves should be reunited "ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority." Israel, however, has balked at ceding security control of Gaza after the war.

∎ Cpl. Noa Marciano, a 19-year-old female Israeli soldier whose body was recovered last week in Gaza, was killed by Hamas after sustaining non-life-threatening injuries during combat operations, . She had been captured in the Oct. 7 attack. Hamas has said an Israeli air strike killed her. "Hamas terrorists took Noa into Shifa Hospital, where she was murder quickly,'' an Israel spokesman said.

∎ Beijing will host a delegation of foreign ministers from Arab and Islamic countries, including the Palestinian Authority's foreign minister, to help find a solution to the war, the Chinese foreign ministry said Sunday.

31 sick infants evacuated from embattled Gaza hospital

The World Health Organization led a team into the embattled Shifa Hospital on Sunday, rescuing 31 sick premature babies and at least 16 health workers and other staff as Israel continued its devastating military campaign across northern Gaza. It was the second WHO-led mission to the hospital in as many days. On Saturday, WHO officials described the hospital as a "death zone," with staffers struggling amid limited supplies of food, water and power. Mohamed Zaqout, director of Gaza hospitals, said four babies had died at the hospital late last week.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general, credited the Palestinian Red Crescent Society with conducting the evacuations "under extremely intense and high-risk" conditions.

"We’re deeply moved and impressed by the extraordinary bravery and service of the health workers in Gaza, who continue to serve under the most dire and difficult circumstances," Tedros said.

The babies were taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at a maternity hospital in southern Gaza and are expected to go from there to facilities in Egypt. They had dehydration, hypothermia and sepsis in some cases, Zaqout said.

Planning is underway to transport the dozens of hospital staff and critically ill patients remaining at the hospital when safe passage can be secured, Tedros said. The hospital has been under siege for weeks amid Israeli claims it was being used by Hamas to stash fighters and weaponry.

Israel says new videos show Hamas uses hospital for military purposes

This Israeli military has responded to stinging criticism of its Shifa Hospital raid by insisting Hamas uses the sprawling 20-acre complex as a command center and the patients as human shields, and posting videos trying to prove the case.

One shows what the Israel Defense Forces calls "the first, very sophisticated shaft'' on hospital grounds, along with several weapons and ammunition cartridges. The IDF said the shaft leads to about 30 feet under the compound and included a staircase, blast-proof door and a firing hole that could be used by snipers. The findings could not be independently verified.

The Israeli military also saying they showed two foreign hostages taken to the hospital by Hamas forces after the Oct. 7 attack. "These findings prove that the Hamas terrorist organization used the Shifa Hospital complex on the day of the October 7 Massacre as terrorist infrastructure,'' the posting said. Neither that assertion nor the contents of the video could be verified.

In response to the videos showing the shaft and tunnel, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told the Associated Press: “The Israelis said there was a command and control center, which means that the matter is greater than just a tunnel.”

100 Hamas militants taken prisoner

Over 100 Hamas militants have been captured and transferred for questioning in Israel in the last few days, the Israeli military said in a statement. Some operatives disclosed Hamas' operating methods and details on tunnel digging and the recruitment process, the military said.

"The information gained from the interrogations of the terrorists serves the troops who are operating from the air and the ground in the Gaza Strip," the statement said. It said that the information gleaned is providing "precise and up-to-date intelligence from the field" in support of combat efforts.

Cargo ship hijacked in Red Sea by Iran-backed militants

The cargo ship hijacked by members of the Iran-backed Houthi militia in the southern Red Sea is not Israeli and has no Israeli crew members, Israeli officials said. Earlier Sunday, Houthi leaders had threatened to hijack Israeli-flagged ships. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying the ship was British-owned and was operated by a Japanese company.

The ship had departed Turkey on its way to India staffed by about 25 civilians of various nationalities, the Israeli military said.

UN agency: 24 die in attack on school-turned shelter

At least 24 people were reportedly killed in an Israeli air strike on a school-turned-shelter for displaced families in northern Gaza, Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said in a statement Sunday. He said as many as 7,000 people were in the school, which also was hit two weeks ago. At least 12 people were killed and 54 injured in that attack, Lazzarini said. The Israeli military said its troops were active in the area and were targeting militants.

“This is yet another proof that no one, and nowhere is safe in Gaza," Lazzarini said in a . "These acts not only blatantly contravene the rules of war, they also show a total disregard for humanity."

Large groups of peopleare fleeing Gaza City, satellite images show

Contributing: The Associated Press

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