World News

Israel Gaza war: Qatar reassessing its role in ceasefire talks

  • By Wyre Davies and David Gritten
  • BBC News

Legend, A woman reacts as she watches a search for bodies near Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday.

Qatar is reassessing its role as mediator between Israel and Hamas, the country’s prime minister said.

Qatar played a key role – alongside Egypt and the United States – in trying to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and the release of Israeli hostages.

But Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said Doha had been exploited and abused and was being undermined by those trying to score political points.

He also said the ongoing peace talks were in a “delicate phase.”

Attempts to secure a ceasefire have been tricky and largely unsuccessful, but Qatar’s ties to all parties – including its close ties to Hamas – are seen as crucial to achieving a breakthrough. .

Mediators proposed a six-week truce during which Hamas would release 40 women, children and elderly or sick hostages – an offer that Hamas publicly rejected this weekend.

Qatar is now openly questioning the chances of success of these negotiations and says it is reassessing its role as mediator.

Qatar’s Sheikh Mohammed said his efforts were being undermined by politicians seeking to score points.

“Unfortunately, we have found that there has been an abuse of this mediation and an abuse of this mediation in favor of narrow political interests,” he told a news conference in Doha.

“This means that the State of Qatar has called for a comprehensive assessment of this role. We are now at this stage to assess the mediation and also assess how the parties engage in this mediation.”

He did not identify any individuals, but some critical voices in the US Congress have criticized Qatar for not putting enough pressure on Hamas to make concessions. The United States has accused the Palestinian armed group of being “an obstacle to a ceasefire” after it publicly rejected the latest ceasefire offer over the weekend.

Facing new fears that the devastating war in Gaza could escalate into a wider regional conflict as tensions rise between Israel and Iran, the Qatari prime minister has warned against the expansion of the conflict and called on the community international community as a whole to assume its responsibilities and put an end to the war.

Separately, the Israeli army said that 14 Israeli soldiers were injured, six of them seriously, by anti-tank missiles and drones launched from Lebanese territory towards a village in northern Israel.

The Iranian-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said it fired on a military target in the Arab region of al-Aramshe in retaliation for recent Israeli strikes that killed Hezbollah commanders and other fighters.

Hezbollah – which, like Hamas, is banned as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries – has exchanged fire with Israeli forces almost every day along the border since start of the war in Gaza.

That conflict erupted when Hamas gunmen carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 others back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 33,800 people have been killed in Gaza, mostly women and children, during Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas and free hostages, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry. .

A week-long ceasefire in November saw the release of 105 hostages – mostly women and children – in exchange for some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Israeli officials say 133 hostages are being held in Gaza – including four taken prisoner before the war – but that more than 30 of them are dead.

Legend, A Passover Seder table was set up in central London with 133 empty seats for hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza.

On Saturday, Hamas issued a statement saying it was ready to reach a “serious and genuine” hostage exchange deal with Israel, but rejected what was currently on the table.

He also reiterated that he was sticking to his demands for a permanent ceasefire that would lead to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes.

Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, whose director leads the Israeli negotiating team, said Sunday that Hamas’ position showed that its leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, “does not want a humanitarian agreement and the return of hostages, continues to exploit the tension. with Iran and strives to unite the sectors and achieve general escalation in the region.

“The bottom line is that Hamas must accept this agreement and it must explain to the world and to the Palestinian people why it does not accept it,” the spokesperson for the US State Department said on Monday. Matthew Miller.

Last week, a senior Israeli official told US media that Hamas had informed mediators that it was not holding 40 live hostages meeting one of the criteria laid out in the latest ceasefire proposal – children, women, including soldiers, men over 50. and those suffering from serious health problems.

A senior Hamas official, meanwhile, said a ceasefire needed to be in effect to provide “sufficient time and security” to locate all the hostages.

Image source, Israeli Defense Forces

Legend, UN World Food Program trucks transport flour to Gaza from Israel’s Ashdod container port

Sheikh Mohammed also called on the international community to “take responsibility and stop this war”, warning that civilians in Gaza were facing “siege and starvation”, with aid being used as “a tool of political blackmail”. .

A U.N.-backed assessment said last month that 1.1 million people – half the population – were facing catastrophic famine and that famine was imminent in northern Gaza. The UN has blamed Israeli restrictions on aid deliveries, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of order.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday that it “rejects the claims of international organizations regarding the famine in Gaza” and insisted that Israel was “going above and beyond its humanitarian expectations.”

The Israeli military also announced that food aid had entered Gaza for the first time from the Israeli container port of Ashdod, with eight trucks from the UN World Food Program transporting flour via the Kerem crossing Shalom under Israeli control with the south of the territory on Wednesday.

A new crossing with northern Gaza was also opened last week as Israel sought to meet demands made by US President Joe Biden following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on April 1 that killed seven workers humanitarian organizations of World Central Kitchen.

However, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), which is the largest humanitarian organization in Gaza, said in a report on Tuesday that there had been “no significant change in the volume of humanitarian supplies entering Gaza nor improved access to the north. .

According to figures released by UNRWA, an average of 185 trucks entered Gaza each day via Kerem Shalom and the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing between April 5 – the day after Mr Biden’s conversation with Mr Netanyahu – and April 15, last date available. The daily average was 168 over seven days between March 29 and April 4, the data showed.

A senior U.N. humanitarian official also warned Tuesday that the U.N. still struggles to prevent famine, even though coordination of aid deliveries with Israel has improved somewhat.

“It’s much more important than just bringing flour and baking a few loaves of bread. It’s really complex,” noted Andrea De Domenico. “Water, sanitation and health are essential to combat hunger.”

Cogat, the Israeli Defense Ministry body that coordinates aid deliveries to Gaza, said 700 trucks loaded with supplies were waiting to be collected on the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom. “We have increased our capabilities. The UN has only made excuses,” the statement added.

Legend, There have been days of bombardment and intense fighting in and around the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

In another development on the ground in Gaza on Wednesday, the Israeli military said its troops and aircraft had “eliminated a number of terrorists and destroyed terrorist infrastructure” in the center of the territory.

Palestinian media reported that there had been intense shelling and fighting in and around the Nuseirat refugee camp, where 11 members of the al-Nouri family were reportedly killed Tuesday in a strike on their home.

The Israeli military also said its forces carried out a raid “to apprehend terrorists hiding in schools” in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. A number of members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were arrested and others who resisted were killed, the statement added.

Four people were reported killed on Tuesday when a house in Beit Hanoun was hit and significantly damaged, according to the UN.

A man from the nearby town of Jabalia told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Lifeline radio service: “We were shocked by the advance of the (Israeli) occupying forces, who surrounded the entire area and arrested young men , women and children. The forces evacuated us from the area. killed people in Beit Hanoun, entered the shelter’s schools and arrested those who were there.

“This is how our life became unbearable… every time we walk, the tanks always bombard us with shells.”

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