Qatar reconsiders the role of mediator between Hamas and Israel

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The Qatari Prime Minister said that his country is reevaluating its role in mediating between Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire and release the hostages held in Gaza, saying that politicians with “narrow interests” are undermining Doha’s efforts.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani expressed his “regret over the political exploitation” of Doha's diplomacy by some politicians who “were promoting their election campaigns by defaming Qatar's role.”

Sheikh Mohammed's comments came late on Wednesday after Democratic US Congressman Steny Hoyer said Hamas is using Qatar to extract greater concessions from Israel, adding that if Doha fails to put pressure on the Palestinian militant group, the US must reevaluate its relationship. With Qatar. “.

Qatar, along with the United States and Egypt, has played a crucial role in mediating between Israel and Hamas since the Islamist movement's October 7 attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials, and led to the outbreak of war in Gaza.

In November, Doha helped broker an agreement that halted the conflict for a week during which more than 100 of about 250 hostages taken in the attack were released. In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian women and children detained in its prisons, and allowed more aid to enter besieged Gaza, where more than 33,000 people were killed, according to Palestinian officials.

Months of subsequent diplomatic efforts to reach an extended prisoner agreement to halt the war and secure the release of the remaining prisoners have faced difficulties due to wide gaps between Israel and Hamas.

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This includes Hamas's demand that any arrangement end with a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, which is rejected by the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Egypt, the only country other than Israel that shares a border with Gaza, has traditionally played an important role in negotiations between Israel and Hamas, as well as other Palestinian factions.

Since October 7, Cairo has also played a crucial role in supporting the delivery of aid to Gaza.

But the war has exacerbated deep economic and social pressures in the Arab country of 100 million people, prompting major donors and allies, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Union and the United Arab Emirates, to offer a $55 billion rescue plan over the course of… The last two months. To boost the economy.

Gas-rich Qatar, one of the most important Arab allies of the United States, enjoys a unique position because it has hosted the political office of Hamas since 2012.

Doha's diplomacy has drawn praise from the Biden administration – which designated it as a major non-NATO ally two years ago – as well as from other Western governments. But its relationship with Hamas has faced scrutiny and criticism from some American conservatives, many of whom have ties to Israel or American Jewish issues, as well as from Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu.

Over the past decade, Qatar has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in aid into Gaza, which has been controlled by Hamas since 2007, to help pay the salaries of government employees and support poor families.

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Qatari officials say that the country does not sponsor or finance Hamas, but it agreed to host the political office after the United States asked it to open a channel with the movement more than a decade ago. They added that its aid to the besieged Strip was coordinated through UN agencies and Israel, with the Israeli government having “full oversight” of the aid.

The latest round of hostage talks collapsed, with Israel and the United States blaming Hamas for rejecting the latest proposal.

Hopes for a breakthrough were further dashed by rising tensions between Israel and Iran, after the Islamic Republic launched a barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles at the Jewish state over the weekend. Tehran said the attack was in response to a suspected Israeli air strike on its consulate building in Damascus, killing seven Revolutionary Guards.

Sheikh Mohammed said on Wednesday that “the ceasefire negotiations and the release of prisoners and hostages are going through a sensitive and critical stage,” adding that Doha “has been working since the first day of the war to stop it and release the hostages.”

He said that Qatar is committed to its role “for humanitarian reasons, but he pointed out that there are limits to this role and the impact it can have.”

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