Deal to release Israeli hostages 'getting close to the end' as Gaza hospitals no longer functioning

Twenty eight premature babies who were evacuated from the biggest hospital in Gaza have arrived in Egypt to receive specialist care, ITV News Senior Correspondent John Irvine reports

  • Negotiations surrounding the release of hostages held by Hamas are "getting close to the end," the White House said.

  • The World Health Organisation says that health services in Gaza have suffered “catastrophic” damage, with most hospitals no longer functioning.

  • Some 31 babies have been saved - 28 of which have been relocated to Egypt - after 291 patients were left stranded in al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, where the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) is continuing its search for Hamas' command centre.

  • More than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the war between Israel and proscribed terror group Hamas.

  • At least 1,200 people were killed in Israel following Hamas' October 7 attack in the south of the country.

Negotiations surrounding the release of hostages held by Hamas are "getting close to the end," the White House said on Monday.

A significant number of the captives are believed to be considered in release talks, but the National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, declined to elaborate on the details of the potential deal.

Around 240 hostages were taken during Hamas's deadly attack in Israel on October 7, which prompted Israel to invade Gaza.

Since the attack, Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two were found near the al-Shifa hospital.

Israel, the US and Qatar - which mediates with Hamas - have been negotiating a hostage release for weeks.

“I know that everybody's interested in the numbers and who they're going to be," Mr Kirby said.

"We're working that through literally in real time with both sides. So, I think it's better if I just don't speculate about what that pool is going to look like."

It comes as the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which helped arrange the release of the four Israeli hostages, has met with the militant group’s supreme leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Mirjana Spoljaric travelled to Qatar and met with the Hamas leader as part of the ICRC’s efforts to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.

ICRC has repeatedly called for the release of hostages and has been seeking access for its teams to visit hostages and deliver medication, as well as to help hostages to communicate with their families.

Across the seven-week conflict Hamas militants have released four hostages to the Red Cross. Credit: AP

Most hospitals in Gaza no longer functioning, says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Monday that health services in Gaza had suffered “catastrophic” damage, with most hospitals no longer functioning.

“We now have 1.7 million people displaced so we have twice or three times the population (in the south of Gaza), using one third of the hospital beds in less than a third of the hospitals available,” Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told a United Nations briefing.

“Even if tomorrow morning, this were to end in terms of a ceasefire, we still have a huge problem on our hands.”

Mr Ryan said the services in the territory were already unable to provide care for more complex medical cases, including care for most cancer and kidney dialysis patients.

He said they would further be likely overwhelmed by the approximately 5,500 births expected in the next month.

Ambulances evacuating prematue babies from al-Shifa have arrived in Egypt through the Rafah crossing. Credit: Al-Qahera

Premature babies transported to Egypt to receive urgent care

Twenty eight of the premature babies who were evacuated from al-Shifa hospital have arrived in Egypt through the Rafah crossing, Egypt's state-run media confirmed.

The babies, who are in an "extremely critical condition", were suffering from dehydration, hypothermia and sepsis in some cases, according to director of Gaza hospitals, Mohamed Zaqout.

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service facilitated the transportation to Egypt after coordinating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations (UN).

Egypt’s Al-Qahera satellite channel broadcast images of the babies inside Egyptian ambulances, without specifying how many had arrived.

Four of the babies died before their visit. Mr Zaqout added they had not been in "suitable conditions for them to stay alive."

Health officials reported that 31 premature babies had been evacuated from Gaza's heavily damaged main hospital and safely transported to another in the south.

They were among 291 trauma patients, with severely infected wounds, and others unable to move with spinal injuries, left in al-Shifa after a mass evacuation on Saturday.

Al-Shifa can no longer provide most treatment after it ran out of water, medical supplies and fuel for emergency generators because of a territory-wide blackout.

At least 30 children are thought to be among the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza as hope grows for their return, ITV News Senior Correspondent John Ray reports

'We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled,' says UN Secretary General

Around 1,200 people have been killed in Israel following the attack by Hamas militants on October 7, with mainly civilians killed during the original incursion.

In Gaza more than 12,700 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Another 2,700 have been reported missing and are believed to be buried under rubble following the constant bombardment of airstrikes from Israeli missiles.

Over the seven-week span of the conflict, questions have been raised over the validity of the death toll in Gaza given the healthy ministry is Hamas-run.

No external body is yet to give confirmation on the exact figures, but in a first on Monday, UN Chief Antonio Guterres said: "We are witnessing a killing of civilians that is unparalleled and unprecedented in any conflict since I have been Secretary General."

He added: "Without entering into discussing accuracy of Gaza health ministry figures, what is clear is that we have had in a few weeks thousands of children killed."

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