Live Updates: Qatar brokers Israel-Hamas deal to get medicine to hostages in Gaza
Israel announced Friday that it had reached a deal with Qatar that will allow the delivery of medicine to hostages being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Over 100 of some 240 hostages that were taken during Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel remain in captivity. Qatar, alongside Egypt, has played a key role in mediating between Israel and Hamas. Doha and Cairo brokered a cease-fire agreement in late November that saw over 100 hostages released in exchange for a pause in fighting and the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that hostages would receive the medications “in the next few days.”
The medicine deal comes as Qatar is working on an additional agreement involving a cease-fire and hostage release that could provide a road map for an end to the war. On Wednesday, Israel’s war cabinet reviewed a Qatari proposal that Israeli news outlets reported included allowing Hamas leaders to leave Gaza for exile in exchange for a gradual release of all hostages and an eventual end to the fighting.
Yet Israeli media described the proposal as “preliminary,” and reports indicate the sides are still far from reaching an agreement.
Meanwhile, tension in the Middle East reached new heights on Friday after the United States and the United Kingdom launched precision strikes from the air and sea against dozens of Houthi military targets in Yemen overnight in response to repeated attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
US and UK combat aircraft joined by US warships and at least one submarine fired more than 100 precision-guided munitions including Tomahawk cruise missiles. The action started around 2:30 a.m. local time Friday with the suppression of air defenses by targeting radar systems, two US defense officials told Al-Monitor.
The Iran-backed militants — in addition to Tehran’s other proxies in the region — have increasingly launched attacks against US troops and Israel since the war in Gaza erupted Oct. 7 in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians in the Strip.
The move saw a slew of condemnations in the region, not just from the Houthi group itself, but also from multiple regional countries and allied militant groups.
In a statement carried by Yemen’s Houthi-run Saba News Agency on Friday, the group’s military spokesperson Yahya Saree said the United States and United Kingdom bear full responsibility for their “criminal aggression” against Yemen, stressing that the attack “will not go unanswered and unpunished.”
Iran and Hezbollah were also quick to denounce the strikes. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said in a statement Friday that the attack is “a clear violation of Yemen’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and a breach of international laws,” while Hezbollah issued a statement condemning the “US and British blatant aggression against Yemen.”
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out over the strikes Friday, describing them as “disproportionate force.” Additional statements came from Oman and Jordan.
Tensions in the Red Sea have led to a drastic drop in shipping traffic through the vital waterway, with research from shipping services firm Clarksons showing the number of container ships in the sea down 90% year-on-year in the first week of January.
Tesla and Volvo are the two latest companies to announce a disruption. On Friday the carmakers said that they would temporarily suspend production at some of their European factories due to the increasing attacks by the Houthis on ships in the Red Sea and the subsequent air strikes on the country.
Also on Friday, Israel presented its arguments at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, saying that South Africa’s genocide case against it was “profoundly distorted.”
South Africa had filed an emergency case at the ICJ, arguing that Israel’s actions in Gaza constitute a breach of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
Israel argued there was no basis showing intent for genocide and that non-combatant casualties on the Palestinian side were a result of the Hamas militant group operating from civilian areas in the Gaza Strip. As the applicant, South Africa had presented its argument first during a three-hour session Thursday.
Opening the Israeli defense, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser Tal Becker said, “If there have been acts that may be characterized as genocidal, then they have been perpetrated against Israel,” referencing Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that killed over 1,100 people, mostly civilians.
Over 23,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7. Of those killed, 70% have been women and children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. Nearly 60,000 have been reported wounded and around 7,000 people are still missing and are presumed to be under the rubble.
Ezgi Akin, Beatrice Farhat, Rina Bassist, Elizabeth Hagedorn, Adam Lucente, Jack Dutton, Jared Szuba and Al-Monitor’s contributors on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel contributed to this blog.
Live updates (all times EST):
Friday, Jan. 12, 2024
11:39 am: Netanyahu turns to longtime foe to defend Israel — and himself — at ICJ
One of the 17 distinguished judges presiding over this week’s International Court of Justice hearing into South African accusations that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians is Aharon Barak, a former Israeli chief justice. The ICJ’s fixed panel consists of 15 judges, but each party to a dispute is allowed to appoint one additional judge. Ben Caspit reports.
10:12 am: Tesla, Volvo pause production lines as oil prices rise amid Red Sea tension
Car companies Tesla and Volvo announced Friday that they would temporarily suspend production at some of their European factories due to the increasing attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen on ships in the Red Sea and the subsequent air strikes on the country by the United States and United Kingdom overnight. Jack Dutton and Adam Lucente report.
9:59 am: Condemnations, calls for revenge over strikes on Houthis
Tension in the Middle East hit a new height on Friday, after the United States and the United Kingdom launched precision strikes from the air and sea against dozens of Houthi military targets in Yemen overnight in response to the repeated attacks against commercial vessels in the Red Sea. The strikes sparked statements of condemnation around the region and have further raised concerns of a regional war. Beatrice Farhat reports.
7:08 am: Dozens die in Israeli strikes on central, southern Gaza
Telecommunication services were cut across the besieged Gaza Strip Friday while Israeli strikes killed dozens in southern Gaza cities. Hundreds of thousands are struggling to survive hunger and cold there on day 98 of the war between Israel and Hamas. Read the full story here.
6:15 am: Israel hits back at ‘distorted’ genocide case
Israel said Friday it was not seeking to destroy the Palestinian people as it hit back at what it called a “profoundly distorted” and “malevolent” genocide case against it at the UN’s top court.
South Africa has filed an emergency case at the International Court of Justice arguing that Israel stands in breach of the UN Genocide Convention, signed in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust. Read the full story here.
Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024
9:52 pm: Oil prices surge on Red Sea escalation
Oil prices surged four percent on Friday after US and UK forces launched strikes against Iran-backed Houthi rebels following their attacks on ships in the Red Sea, fueling worries about a wider conflict in the crude-rich region. Read the full story here.
6:59 pm: Yemen rebels say US, UK interests ‘legitimate targets’ after strikes
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis said Friday that US and British interests were “legitimate targets” after they launched deadly strikes against the rebels following weeks of disruptive attacks on Red Sea shipping. Read the full story here.
6:36 pm: US, UK carry out strikes against Yemen’s Houthis following Red Sea attacks
The United States and the United Kingdom carried out precision strikes on a dozen military sites used by the Houthis in Yemen on Thursday night in response to the group’s continued attacks on commercial cargo ships and tankers in the Red Sea since the outbreak of the Gaza war. Jared Szuba reports.
4:45 pm: US seeks diplomatic deal to contain Israel-Lebanon escalation
The White House dispatched senior advisor Amos Hochstein to Lebanon on Thursday as the Biden administration works to prevent Israel’s war against Hamas from spreading into a wider regional conflict. Elizabeth Hagedorn reports.
2:30 pm: US, UK mull strikes against Iran-backed Houthis following Red Sea attacks
The US and UK governments are mulling their response against Yemen’s Houthi rebels following yet another attack on international shipping in the Red Sea on Thursday.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is holding an emergency call with his cabinet to assess a response to attacks by the Houthis, British media reported on Thursday. Adam Lucente and Jared Szuba report.
1:29 pm: What is next at ICJ as South Africa opens Israeli genocide case?
South Africa presented its complaint against Israel Thursday, accusing it of genocide at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. At this first stage, South Africa is asking the court to issue a provisional order for Israel to halt all military activities in the Gaza Strip, stop any action that could be considered genocidal by Israeli troops or any individual or groups working with Israel, allow external bodies and journalists access to the region, submit a report to the court on the situation on the ground and enable free access to humanitarian aid. A decision by the court is expected within days. Rina Bassist reports.
11:45 pm: How is Middle East reacting to South Africa’s Gaza genocide ICJ case against Israel?
The International Court of Justice in The Hague convened on Thursday for two days of preliminary hearings on a genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel last month over its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The event was met with gratification across the Middle East — outside Israel — imparting a sense of accountability for what’s happening in Gaza, if only symbolically. Beatrice Farhat reports.
11:01 am: Saudi-Israel normalization emerges as leverage for post-war Gaza
As the Biden administration clashes with Israel over a plan for Gaza’s day after, it has suggested a historic peace accord between Saudi Arabia and Israel could be leveraged to secure a pathway for Palestinian statehood. Elizabeth Hagedorn reports.