An India-bound cargo ship from Turkey has been hijacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. The ship was carrying around 50 crew members from various nations. It is not known whether any Indians were on board the “Galaxy Leader”.
Confirming the hijack, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) tweeted: “The hijacking of a cargo ship by the Houthis near Yemen in the southern Red Sea is a very grave incident of global consequence. The ship departed Turkey on its way to India, staffed by civilians of various nationalities, not including Israelis. It is not an Israeli ship.”
Meanwhile, Hamas militants battled Israeli forces trying to push into Gaza’s largest refugee camp on Sunday and Israeli air strikes to the south killed dozens of Palestinians, witnesses said, as a US media report of a nascent hostage release deal
The Washington Post said on Sunday that US mediators were close to a deal between Israel and Hamas to free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in their war that would help boost emergency aid shipments to Gaza civilians, citing sources.
The Post had reported on Saturday that a tentative deal had been reached, and this was denied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US officials, with a White House spokesperson saying efforts were continuing to clinch a deal.
Hamas took about 240 hostages during its deadly cross-border rampage into Israeli communities on October 7, which prompted Israel to lay siege to Gaza and invade the Palestinian territory to eradicate its ruling Islamist group.
Reuters reported on November 15 that Qatari mediators had been seeking a deal between Israel and Hamas to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire, citing an official. At the time, the official said general outlines had been agreed but Israel was still negotiating details.
On Sunday, Qatari Prime
Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told a press conference in Doha that the main sticking points blocking a hostage release deal were now “very minor” – mainly practical and logistical issues.
The delicate hostage talks coincide with Israel preparing to expand its offensive against Hamas to densely populated Gaza’s southern half after air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians, including civilians reportedly sheltering at two schools.
An agreement for Hamas to release hostages taken during its October 7 attack on Israel may be the closest yet and would require a multiday pause the fighting in Gaza, US Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said.
31 very sick babies evacuated; Türkiye welcomes cancer patients
World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media that the “very sick” babies were evacuated, along with six health workers and 10 staff family members. He said they were taken to a hospital in the southern Gaza city of Rafah where they are receiving urgent care. They were taken in ambulances of the Palestinian Red Crescent. A WHO team that visited the hospital on Saturday said 291 patients were still there, including the babies, trauma patients with severely infected wounds, and others with spinal injuries who are unable to move.
Besides, some 351 cancer patients in Gaza will travel to Türkiye to resume treatment, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said. The patients had been receiving treatment at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, the only oncology hospital in Gaza, which was shut down shortly after the start of Israel’s ground assault. The ongoing unrelenting Israeli bombardment has rasied the death toll in Gaza to 12,300, including 5,000 children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Israel to turn South in hunt for Hamas leaders
Israel said it’s entering the “next stage” of the war, as attention turned from the rubble of Gaza City to Khan Younis in the south. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a news conference, wouldn’t say if he believed top Hamas leaders are hiding there. “We’ll get to them,” he said. “All Hamas leaders are dead men walking.”
Hamas has lost contact with groups assigned to guard some hostages, a spokesperson said. A senior US diplomat said Hamas must free more hostages in return for a significant increase in aid to Gaza and a pause in fighting. President Joe Biden threatened US visa bans on “extremists” who attack Palestinians in the West Bank.