Israel and Hamas Reach Deal to Supply Medicine to Hostages in Gaza: Live News

Israel and Hamas have reached a deal that would allow medications to be delivered to Israeli hostages in return for additional medicine and aid for Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, officials said, marking a significant breakthrough in the indirect talks between the warring sides.

The agreement was announced on Tuesday by Qatar, who has served as a mediator. A Hamas official, Basem Naim, later confirmed the agreement, and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said a deal had been reached to send medicine to the hostages.

More than 120 hostages have been held in Gaza since Oct. 7, and many have health conditions that require regular medical care, including cancer and diabetes. Their families have grown increasingly concerned as the war entered its fourth month and as hostages released in late November have shared harrowing accounts of their captivity.

The agreement was brokered by Qatar and France, and involves Israel allowing more medicine and humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza in exchange for delivering medication to Israeli captives, the spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, said in a statement.

Mr. Al-Ansari said the medications and aid will leave Doha on Wednesday and be taken to Al-Arish in Egypt, on board two Qatari military aircraft, in preparation for their transport to “the most affected and vulnerable areas” in Gaza.

Philippe Lalliot, a diplomat in charge of the French foreign ministry’s Crisis and Support Center, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that the center, acting on instructions from President Emmanuel Macron, had bought medication for the hostages in France and then shipped it via diplomatic pouch to Qatar last Saturday.

He said the push to get medication to hostages in Gaza came primarily from their relatives. The families “came to us and said ‘there are people among the hostages who need major treatments that they are deprived of, and we need to collect these treatments and send them there,’” Mr. Lalliot said.

Israeli medical authorities had initially identified 85 hostages in need of medication, but Mr. Lalliot said that number was brought down to 45 after some of the hostages were released or died. Doctors at the crisis center identified the necessary treatments those people needed, bought them in France, and packaged them — some treatments need to be kept at cold temperatures — before sending them to Qatar, Mr. Lalliot said.

Qatar bought medications for Palestinian civilians, said two officials briefed on the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive arrangement.

One of the most complicated aspects of the deal was how to get the medications to the hostages, many of whom are believed to be held in underground tunnels and rooms. At a news conference on Saturday, Osama Hamdan, a spokesman for Hamas, spoke of the challenge of overcoming what he called the “security aspect” of delivering medications, without elaborating.

A Middle Eastern official, however, said the medications would be sent to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza under Qatari supervision before being distributed to the hostages and Palestinian civilians. A Qatari official said representatives of the Health Ministry would transport the medications to the hostages.

Doctors in Gaza and the United Nations have said that hospitals are facing steep shortages of medical supplies, including anesthetics, baby formula and painkillers. Israel has been permitting trucks carrying medicine to enter Gaza.

U.N. officials say, however, that those amounts are far less than needed in Gaza, where tens of thousands have been wounded under Israeli bombardments, and disease is rampant among a displaced population with insufficient food, water, shelter and sanitation.

The deal was arranged separately from the broader indirect talks between Israel and Hamas aimed at securing the release of more hostage releases and agreeing to a cease-fire

Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, a former hostage who was released by Hamas in October, holding a photo of her husband, Oded Lifshitz, who is still being held captive.Credit…Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

Advocates for hostage families said the said the agreement was welcome news, but they said the hostages were still in peril and in need of visits from the Red Cross to assess their health.

“We welcome all efforts to transfer medicine to the hostages, but their lives are at risk and they need to be released immediately,” said Hagai Levine, the chairman for the medical team of the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, an advocacy group. “We believe it’s imperative that we receive visual proof that the hostages received their correct medications.”

Daniel Lifshitz, the grandson of Oded Lifshitz, an 83-year-old journalist and peace activist who is among the hostages, said he hoped the agreement was a sign that Israel and Hamas were on the cusp of a broader deal.

“The most important thing here is that this is a confidence-building step ahead of an arrangement leading to my grandfather’s freedom,” he said.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.