The Israeli Occupation Forces have so far killed 11,240 Palestinians, including 4,630 children.
Hamas has once again pointed to deliberate stalling by Israel in Qatar-mediated negotiations aimed at securing the release of dozens of captives held in Gaza, the latest in a string of similar accusations against the occupying state.
Al Qassam Brigade’s spokesman Abu Obaida said “Qatari mediation has led efforts” to release 100 Israeli captives in exchange for 200 Palestinian children and 75 women currently in Israeli prisons without charge or trial.
“We informed the mediators we could release the hostages if we obtained five days of truce … and passage of aid to all of our people throughout the Gaza Strip, but the enemy is procrastinating,” the spokesperson said in an audio recording posted on the group’s Telegram channel.
“The truce should include a complete ceasefire and allow aid and humanitarian relief everywhere in the Gaza Strip,” he asserted.
He said Hamas also confirmed to Qatari mediators that the movement has been ready to release up to 70 women and children held in Gaza in return for a five-day truce with the Israeli regime.
“Last week there was an effort from the Qatari brothers to release the enemy captives from women and children, in return for the release of 200 Palestinian children and 75 women detained by the enemy” said Abu Obaida.
Since the start of Israel’s relentless massacres in Gaza, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have killed 11,240 Palestinians, including 4,630 children.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the possibility of a deal to free the captives during an interview with US media on Sunday, though he refrained from giving specific details. Netanyahu is facing immense pressure at home by families and relatives of the captives who have demanded his resignation for mishandling the issue.
Qatar, which hosts a Hamas political office, has taken the lead in mediating discussions between the group and Israeli authorities, specifically focusing on civilian captives.
Hamas captured some 242 Israelis and foreigners during the ‘Al Aqsa Flood’ operation on October 7, in which the Palestinian group managed to infiltrate occupied territories through air, land and sea.
Also last week, Hamas said it was close to releasing 12 additional foreign captives from Gaza, but blamed Israel of obstructing the process with its ongoing bombardment.
Then on Thursday, Al-Qassam issued two videos of captives—a 77-year-old woman and a 13-year-old boy—and confirmed it was willing to release both of them on humanitarian grounds on the condition that Israel meets “appropriate measures”.
So far, Qatari mediation has led to the release of four captives before talks appeared to stall due to the intensifying Israeli bombardment.
Qatar is working
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser said that active negotiations involving Qatar, Egypt, the United States, and Israel are currently underway to secure the release of more captives.
The Middle East’s envoy for Biden is reportedly heading to Qatar this week as part of a regional tour, four American and Israeli officials told Axios on Saturday. Biden’s senior Middle East adviser Brett McGurk is scheduled to first land in Israel on Tuesday before heading to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar, the sources said.
McGurk’s visit in Doha comes days after a stopover by CIA Director William Burns in Qatar on Thursday, in which he reportedly met with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
The Axios report appears to fall in line with recent comments made by Abu Obaida. It said some of the proposals currently on the table of negotiations include a possible deal to release some 80 women and children from Hamas.
Citing Israeli officials, the report also confirmed this would be in exchange for the release of Palestinian women and children behind Israeli bars, mostly in the occupied West Bank.
So far, Netanyahu has rejected all forms of a ceasefire without the return of captives, including Washington’s calls for “humanitarian pauses”.
Meanwhile, rights organisations have emphasised that every passing second holds immense importance, and the conditions in Gaza are deteriorating continuously.
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said Israel’s “unlawful attacks on medical facilities, personnel and transport are further destroying Gaza’s healthcare system and should be investigated as war crimes”.
“Despite the Israeli military’s claims on November 5, 2023, of ‘Hamas’s cynical use of hospitals,’ no evidence put forward would justify depriving hospitals and ambulances of their protected status under international humanitarian law,” it said.
“Human Rights Watch investigated attacks on or near the Indonesian Hospital, al-Ahli Hospital, the International Eye Care Center, the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, and the al-Quds Hospital between October 7 and November 7.”
Meanwhile, a top UN official delivered a scathing statement accusing world powers of being “paralysed” in the face of Israel’s “genocidal crimes” in Gaza.
“In the face of all this, the international community is almost completely paralysed. I am being generous when I say almost, with the UN experiencing its most epic political and humanitarian failure since its creation,” Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, said in a speech to the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on Tuesday.
“Individual member states, especially in the West – and Australia is no exception – are on the margins, muttering inaudible words of condemnation for Israel’s excesses at best. Or staying silent in fear of restraining Israel’s … self-proclaimed right to self-defence, whatever it means.”
“Here is where we are, staring into the abyss while Palestinians face the most significant existential threat. And, in a different way, the Israelis, especially Israeli Jews, as well, as a society informed by human values that are getting lost as the country gets enveloped in genocidal cries,” she added.