Israel-Gaza Situation Report: Deal To Release Hostages “Closer Than Ever”

The U.S. government says we are “closer than we’ve ever been” to a deal to free at least some of the approximately 240 hostages held by Hamas in the wake of the militant group’s attack on Israel on October 7. The Biden administration meanwhile says it’s “doing everything we can” to forge an agreement under which those hostages will be released.

These statements were provided to reporters today by John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the U.S. National Security Council. Kirby added that President Joe Biden is hopeful that a deal can be struck to release all the hostages, “including young children, and of course, Americans that are in that pool.”

“We’re still working this hour by hour … we believe we’re closer than we’ve ever been,” Kirby told reporters at the White House. “So we’re hopeful. But there’s still work to be done. And nothing is done until it’s all done. So we’re gonna keep working on this.”

Yesterday, senior U.S. and Israeli officials, as well as the Qatari prime minister, all suggested that an agreement could be close.

In Israel, meanwhile, families of some of those hostages have clashed with the government, specifically hard-right Israeli politicians who are demanding the death penalty for captured Hamas members.

Representatives of those families today warned that calls for the death penalty could endanger the lives of their relatives.

“I beg you not to capitalize on our suffering now … when the lives of our loved ones are at stake when the sword is at their necks,” Gil Dickmann, whose cousin is a hostage, told Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, according to Haaretz.

During a parliamentary panel, Yarden Gonen, whose sister Romi is one of the hostages, told Ben-Gvir that a plan to introduce potential capital sentences for convicted militants would mean “playing along with [the] mind games” of Hamas.

Gonen said: “In return, we would get pictures of our loved ones murdered, ended, with the state of Israel and not them [Hamas] being blamed for it … Don’t pursue this until after they are back here. Don’t put my sister’s blood on your hands.”

When confronted by the relatives, Almog Cohen, from the hard-right Otzma Yehudit party, told them: “You have no monopoly over pain. We have also buried more than 50 friends.”

Some families of the hostages were refused permission to attend a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet. They were reportedly told that there was not enough space, despite having registered their attendance in advance.

Haaretz reports that families who were refused entry plan to stage a protest outside the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv where the meeting is taking place.

The chief of the United Nations has said that the world is witnessing an “unparalleled and unprecedented” killing of civilians in Gaza, since the launch of the Israeli military operation there.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that it was obvious that the war in Gaza has seen “a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict” since he took on his role in 2017.

“What is clear is that we have had in a few weeks thousands of children killed,”

Guterres said in a press conference today. “This is what matters. We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since I have been secretary general.”

Authorities in Gaza now say that at least 13,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7. That death toll, published by Gaza’s government media office, includes 5,600 children and 3,550 women.

According to reports, 12 people — including patients — were killed by shelling overnight at the Indonesian hospital in Gaza, which is the last facility of its kind still operating in northern Gaza. The claims, from the Gazan Ministry of Health, emerged as Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops closed in on the busy hospital, although the Israeli military has yet to comment.

In response to the reports, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), said he was “appalled” by the reported hospital attack.

Videos that have emerged from outside the hospital show what extensive damage, including to what are said to be patient facilities.

Further footage, apparently taken today, and posted to social media, appeared to show Israeli tanks operating in close proximity to the hospital.

That was confirmed by at least one medical worker, Marwan Abdallah, who said tanks could be seen from the hospital windows. “Women and children are terrified. There are constant sounds of explosions and gunfire,” he added.

Israeli military officials have previously claimed that an entrance to a Hamas tunnel is located close to the Indonesian hospital and that missiles have been launched into Israel from nearby.

The events here appear strongly to echo what happened at the al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City last week when it was surrounded by IDF forces and then raided.

In related news, the Israeli military has released security camera footage that it says shows hostages being brought into the al-Shifa hospital on October 7, hours after they were kidnapped.

In one clip, a man is seen being dragged through what looks like an entrance hall by five men. In the second, an injured man is wheeled in on a gurney by seven men. The footage has so far not been independently verified.

The IDF has also released videos that show the network of tunnels under and around the al-Shifa hospital that it claims are used by Hamas, including for one of its main command centers.

Another Gaza City hospital is the subject of the next video, this time published by Hamas. The footage shows three armed militants running into the Rantisi Hospital, apparently after becoming aware that there were IDF forces there. Although unclear, the description of the militants as “martyrdom fighters” suggests they were taking part in a suicide mission, perhaps wearing suicide vests.

Meanwhile, the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirmed that an attack had also taken place on one of its clinics in Gaza City.

MSF said the clinic was attacked Monday morning, leaving part of the building in flames, and leaving four of the charity’s cars burnt out. A fifth car was crushed by a heavy IDF vehicle.

A member of staff and 20 family members are in the clinic and in “extreme danger”, the medical organization said in a statement.

The fallout from the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7 continues, with new claims published that shed light on criticisms leveled against the government and other authorities by the IDF itself.

According to a report by Israel’s N12 news channel, IDF lookouts stationed on the border with Gaza had raised their concerns about the situation there in the months before the October 7 attack. However, it’s claimed that they were told to stop bothering their commanders, with some even being threatened with a court-martial.

The report claims that lookouts warned that they had seen unusual training and other actions taking place next to the border, including ever-greater numbers of people suddenly approaching the fence.

Other criticism has been published by the Times of Israel, which reports that some senior IDF commanders ignored warnings when these came from female soldiers in surveillance roles along the Gaza border.

“If the soldiers had been male, things would have looked different,” one of the interviewees told the Times of Israel. The same source notes that the Border Defense Corps is “a unit made up entirely of young girls and young female commanders.”

More details of failings, including in the Israeli intelligence community have recently been published by the Washington Post, which has made its own investigation. Among the key findings is how Hamas was apparently able to exploit inherent vulnerabilities in Israel’s reliance on technology in order to surveil its so-called “Iron Wall” border.

While there were clearly serious issues in the lead-up to the October 7 Hamas attack, the IDF’s conduct in the weeks after that has also increasingly been questioned, including by its own soldiers.

According to the Jerusalem Post, reserve officers in the IDF have raised concerns over a recent collection of reports on disciplinary issues among Israeli soldiers in Gaza. They claim that these “serious incidents” in the Gaza Strip could “endanger Israeli forces.”

In one example, a tank commander testified that he saw soldiers playing soccer and swimming in the sea, while another IDF commander said that Israeli drivers raced to see who could reach the destination first.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels today claimed that have seized what they described as an Israeli cargo ship in the Red Sea. A video released by the Houthi shows militants arriving aboard the ship in a helicopter before seizing it. Israel has said the cargo vessel is British-owned and Japanese-operated. The Houthis have warned that all vessels linked to Israel “will become a legitimate target for armed forces.”

You can read our full report of the incident here.

A control map providing an overview of the current situation on the ground in Gaza is provided here by the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think-tank. It shows the almost complete encirclement of Gaza City by the IDF, between November 2 and November 14, as well as the critical positions of three hospitals in these Israeli-controlled areas.

The IDF said today that its continued attacks against the Gaza Strip had resulted in the elimination of “three additional company commanders of the terrorist organization Hamas.”

No further details of the specific individuals were provided, although the IDF said that the attacks were prosecuted using fighter jets, with intelligence provided by the Israeli Military Intelligence section (often abbreviated to Aman) and the Israel Security Agency (or Shin Bet).

“In addition, while directing aircraft to eliminate terrorists and terrorist infrastructure, and locating weapons and military equipment, IDF forces continue to operate in the Gaza Strip to eliminate terrorists,” the IDF added in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).

Israel’s Channel 14 has reported that the IDF has successfully used its Iron Beam laser defense system to bring down an enemy rocket in recent days.

If verified, this would appear to be the first known operational interception for the system.

As you can read more about here, the Iron Beam is a trailer-mounted system that uses a directed-energy weapon to destroy targets including rockets, mortars, and drones. Few details are known about Iron Beam’s technical specifications, although past reports described the system as firing “an electric 100-150 kW solid-state laser that will be capable of intercepting rockets and missiles.”

The report of the use of Iron Beam comes as Israeli defense officials say they are facing a spike in the number of rockets and other munitions that are being fired by the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militant group.

Speaking on Sunday, Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said that the Iran-backed Hezbollah had fired 1,000 munitions at Israel since October 7 and said that Tehran was stepping up its attacks against the country.

The Israeli Air Force, alongside other IDF elements, has also continued to wage war on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.

The IDF has said that its recent targets have included a Hezbollah cell that was planning to carry out an anti-tank missile attack from the Lebanese village of Marwahin.

Meanwhile, Israeli fighters, attack helicopters, and tanks struck other Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon in response to attacks on northern Israel. These attacks included 25 rockets fired from Lebanon at Israeli targets in the space of around an hour.

The IDF claims that Hezbollah also launched three explosive-laden drones, which struck an IDF post at Biranit, on the border. This attack was met by IDF artillery fire.

Among the rockets that Hezbollah appears to be using is the Burkan, seen in the video below. Reportedly used in the attack on the IDF border post at Biranit, the Burkan is said to carry a warhead weighing between 661 pounds and 1,102 pounds. Fired from a pedestal launcher, it has a reported range of 6.2 miles.

Another recent target of the Israeli Air Force in Lebanon was a reported “advanced” surface-to-air missile system, which was targeted by a drone over the weekend, according to the IDF.

This operation may potentially be related to the reported downing of an Israeli Air Force Hermes 450 drone over Lebanon, by an undisclosed air defense system, last week. Hezbollah published footage of the incident, seen below.

More imagery of an attack on an IDF Merkava main battle tank has emerged, this time apparently showing the Trophy active protective system (APS) defeating an Al-Yassin 105 — a heavily modified anti-tank round based on the Cold War-era RPG-2 and RPG-7 designs. In this instance, despite the confined area in which the tank was operating and, above all, the very short range at which it was engaged, it seems the Trophy APS worked as advertised and the tank and its crew survived to fight another day.

The same sequence with the Merkava appears in this highly interesting footage of various IDF vehicles coming under fire from Hamas — specifically its al-Qassam Brigades. Recently emerged, although undated, it provides a good impression of the stiff resistance faced by the IDF as it entered Gaza.

More hazardous to the attacker than a rocket-propelled grenade is the following anti-tank tactic, one we have seen before in the conflict, in which a militant places a charge directly on the vehicle, by hand.

This is a developing story. We will update it with any new information about the Israel-Gaza war.

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Thomas Newdick Avatar

Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.