The White House’s statement on the call made no mention of any Qatari role in the release of Israeli citizens.
US President Joe Biden reportedly confirmed to Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas that Washington and Doha are working on the release of civilian Israelis held by Hamas, Israel’s N12 News reported on Sunday.
The development was first shared by the Israeli news outlet on X, formerly known as Twitter, and came following a phone call between Biden and Abbas. The report was referring to civilians among some 130 Israelis captured by Hamas during operation ‘Al Aqsa Flood’.
Despite this, a White House statement detailing the call between the two leaders made no mention of talks to release Israeli civilians.
During the phone call, President Biden renewed his condemnation for “Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel and reiterated that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination”, the White House said.
“President Abbas briefed President Biden on his engagement in the region and his efforts to bring urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza.
“President Biden offered President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority his full support for these important and ongoing efforts, the White House statement said.
The US president also discussed his country’s efforts with the United Nations and international partners, namely Egypt, Jordan and Israel, in order to deliver humanitarian aid to “civilians in Gaza”.
“Finally, President Biden detailed US efforts to coordinate with partners to prevent the conflict from widening, and the two leaders discussed the need to preserve stability in the West Bank and the broader region,” the statement added.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Qatar on Friday as part of a regional tour that included Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
In Doha, Blinken had met with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
The diplomats mainly discussed de-escalation efforts amid the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza. Both officials placed emphasis on the establishment of a safe humanitarian corridor in and out of Gaza amid the complete Israeli siege on the Palestinian enclave.
The fate of prisoners and hostages was addressed during a meeting between the two officials, with multiple reports pointing to the Gulf state’s role in mediating for the release of Israeli civilians.
Responding to a question on the matter, Sheikh Mohammed maintained that “it is very early to judge” progress in the talks, citing “the intensity of the war right now”.
“We always hope that in order to get those hostages back. I think that the progress will be determined in the next few days hopefully, and we will see if there will be a positive prospect for that. But we are doing our best, our partners are doing their best in order to get them released safely,” the Qatari diplomat said.
Speaking alongside Sheikh Mohammed, Blinken said the US is “working intensively” with the Gulf state in order to secure the hostages, which include American citizens.
“I’m grateful for the urgency that Qatar is bringing to this effort. I had an opportunity to meet yesterday with the families of some of those being held hostage by Hamas. Their anguish is profound,” Blinken said, referring to his trip to Tel Aviv.
Qatar, which hosts a Hamas political office, has been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts in Gaza since the onset of the latest events.
The Gulf state has been in close contact with key international partners, namely the US, Turkiye, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, among others in an effort to explore an end to the escalations in Gaza.
However, in a weekly press briefing last week, Qatar’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Dr. Majed Al-Ansari, said that the current crisis in Gaza is not “mere escalation”.
“It is a bit early to comment on any mediation efforts by Qatar or other players of the region. Qatar has had many successes in de-escalating between two parties in the past…at this moment [it is] very difficult to say that any party can start mediation,” Al-Ansari told reporters in Doha.
So far, at least 2,329 Palestinians, including 724 children have been killed by Israel since it declared war on Saturday.
However, the figure is expected to rise as the Israeli occupation forces continue to bombard the city, with fears over a possible Israeli ground invasion on the horizon.