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Qatar evaluating role as mediator between Israel, Hamas

Saturday April 20, 2024

Qatar is rethinking its role as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, its prime minister said Wednesday during a press conference with his Turkish counterpart in Doha.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said, without elaborating, that its mediation had been abused.

"At this point right now, we are reevaluating our role as mediators and how the parties are engaged with this mediation," he said.

Al Thani said there were "limits" to what Qatar can do as a mediator, though top leaders of Hamas live in exile in the country.

Earlier Wednesday, Al Thani said that negotiations for a new cease-fire in Gaza were at a "delicate phase," and that efforts were being made to address barriers to reaching a deal.

Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been involved in talks to secure a halt in fighting that would include the release of some hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza and the freeing of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the issue in a phone call with the Qatari prime minister on Tuesday. The U.S. State Department said the two officials reaffirmed "the importance of continuing to work closely together in the days ahead to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza that secures the release of all hostages."

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron called Wednesday for the world to focus its attention on the hostages, and for Hamas to immediately release the hostages and accept the cease-fire proposal.

"The only reason the conflict continues in Gaza is because they won't take that deal," Cameron said during a visit to Israel. "We need the hostages out. We need the aid in."

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is scheduled to travel to Turkey in the coming days for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three of Haniyeh's sons and several of his grandchildren died in an Israeli strike on Gaza this month.

Military campaign

Israel's military continued its campaign Wednesday, saying its forces had carried out airstrikes on more than 40 Hamas targets during the past day.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said Wednesday that Israeli military actions killed at least 56 people in the past day, bringing the total since the war began to at least 33,899. The ministry says two-thirds of those killed are women and children.

Israel has most recently concentrated its attacks on central Gaza, after pummeling northern Gaza and informing southern Gaza that an offensive there is imminent.

At a hospital morgue in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, the Nouri family mourned Wednesday over body bags. An Israeli assault Tuesday on their family home, officials say, killed 11 people, including children.

"Oh, people of the world, what is happening is wrong! Have mercy on us! Stop the war," a man inside the hospital wailed, Reuters reported.

An Israeli airstrike on a house in Rafah in southern Gaza killed seven Palestinians, including a woman and three children, medics said.

Gaza is on the brink of famine, numerous agencies have reported, but the U.S. and Israel say access to aid has improved this month. Food trucks entered Gaza's Ashdod Port for the first time since Israel approved its opening for aid shipments, the military said Wednesday.

Israel launched its offensive in response to the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures. Militants also took about 250 people hostage. Israel says about 130 hostages remain in captivity, but one-quarter of them are dead. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S., U.K., EU and others.

Israeli tanks pushed back into parts of the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and the Israeli military warned Palestinians not to return. Israel said it does not want the Palestinians to return because it fears Hamas militants will regroup there.

Palestinian UN membership

The U.N. Security Council could vote as early as Thursday on a resolution recommending full member status for the Palestinian Authority.

If the Security Council recommends the Palestinian Authority's application, the U.N. General Assembly can approve it with a two-thirds majority vote.

But the measure's fate at the Security Council is unclear, with the United States holding one of the council's veto-holding positions.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Wednesday during a visit to South Korea that the United States does not see the resolution as part of the path to achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement last month that the United States sees a two-state solution as "the only path toward an enduring peace."

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.


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