For four consecutive days, the IOF has bombed the besieged Gaza Strip, carrying out the deadliest attack in at least 15 years.
Hamas has been in talks with Qatar, Egypt and Turkiye since the beginning of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza as part of mediation efforts, an official from the Palestinian movement told Al Araby TV on Tuesday.
The remarks were made by a leader from Hamas’s political bureau Izzat Al-Risheq, who listed the three countries involved in the mediation attempts.
“We informed the parties that contacted us that we want to protect Al-Aqsa and release the prisoners,” Al-Risheq explained, urging Arab leaders to support the Palestinian resistance.
The Hamas official’s statement comes amid an ongoing Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip that has largely targeted residential buildings, hospitals and mosques.
As of Tuesday morning, Israel has killed at least 704 Palestinians including more than 50 children.
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. Earlier this week, the Gulf state confirmed communications “with the relevant parties, as part of regional and international efforts to de-escalate the situation”.
On Sunday, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani stressed the importance of “safeguarding the lives of civilians” in a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“The Amir stressed, during the call, that safeguarding the lives of civilians, sparing them the consequences of conflict, and reducing escalation are top priorities for the State of Qatar, which is making all its diplomatic efforts with various concerned parties to achieve this goal,” an Amiri Diwan statement said.
The Qatari leader then held separate calls on Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani. Statements on the calls from the Amiri Diwan said that the leaders discussed the developments in Palestine.
Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani has also been in contact with officials from the United States and the Arab region—namely Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.
Statements from Qatar’s foreign ministry on the separate calls said Sheikh Mohammed “stressed the need for concerted efforts” by the countries “in order to calm the situation, reduce the escalation, and spare civilians from the consequences of the confrontations.”
Meanwhile on Saturday, President of the United States Joe Biden said he directed his administration to remain in contact with regional leaders.
“I’ve also directed my team to remain in constant contact with leaders throughout the region, including Egypt, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, the UAE, as well as with our European partners and the Palestinian Authority,” Biden said at the time.
The occupation has waged a deadly campaign on Gaza since Saturday’s ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’, in which Palestinian resistance fighters from Hamas managed to break out of the besieged enclave and infiltrate the occupied territories by land, air and sea.
The Palestinian operation, the largest of its kind in modern history, was carried out by Hamas and saw Palestinian fighters capture more than 130 Israelis including members of the Israeli occupation forces (IOF).
Several media reports citing Hamas sources on Monday claimed that Qatar was mediating an “urgent” prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel.
A source close to Hamas separately told The New Arab on Monday that the Gulf mediator “suggested implementing an urgent swap agreement between Hamas and Israel” aimed at releasing Israeli elderly women captured by Hamas.
In turn, Israel would release all Palestinian women from its jails.
Qatar’s foreign ministry confirmed to Reuters on Monday that it is involved in mediation talks with Hamas and Israeli officials that include a potential prisoner swap.
Deadliest attack on Gaza in 15 years
For four consecutive days, the IOF has bombed the besieged Gaza Strip, carrying out the deadliest attack in at least 15 years. Health facilities across Gaza have been struggling to provide urgent medical assistance to injured Palestinians due to the non-stop Israeli attacks.
The World Health Organization said at least 13 attacks have hit a number of medical structures since the beginning of the fighting.
Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant also announced a complete embargo on the already blockaded Palestinian city on Monday, describing Palestinians in Gaza as “human animals”.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly,” Gallant said.
The shocking comments were met with condemnations by a number of rights groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), which slammed the use of starvation as “a weapon of war” against Palestinians.
“Depriving the population in an occupied territory of food and electricity is collective punishment, which is a war crime, as is using starvation as a weapon of war. The International Criminal Court should take note of this call to commit a war crime,” Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at HRW, said.
The besieged enclave heavily relies on vital crossings that allow the passage of basic necessities. On Tuesday, Israel attacked the shared Egypt and Gaza crossing of Rafah, which has long served as a crucial lifeline for millions of Palestinians in the city.
An Egyptian source told Germany’s DPA news agency that the Rafah crossing has been shut until further notice.
Home to more than two million Palestinians, Gaza has faced an illegal Israeli air, land and sea blockade since 2007 and has been widely described as the world’s “largest open-air prison”.
Palestinians under siege live with limited electricity and water supplies while patients with severe illnesses struggle to exit the city for treatment as they require Israeli permits.