Hamas offered to release the captives if Israel stopped bombing Gaza and released Palestinian prisoners. However, Israel chose and continues to choose continuing its murder campaign in Gaza.
US and European governments have been exerting diplomatic pressure on Israel to delay its planned ground invasion of Gaza in order to provide a window for covert talks mediated by Qatar to secure the release of more captives held by Hamas.
According to Bloomberg, Israel initially resisted delaying its military operation but it ultimately complied under the weight of US and European persuasion. Sources who spoke to the renowned outlet said the current negotiations with Hamas are delicate and may not succeed.
Qatar has been at the forefront of de-escalation efforts since the onset of the Israeli war on Gaza that started on 7 October.
Earlier this week, reports said the US had immediately reached out to Qatar, the host of a Hamas political bureau, to facilitate the release of captives. On Friday, Hamas released two Americans following Qatari mediation.
“In response to Qatari efforts, we released two American detainees for humanitarian reasons,” an official from Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, confirmed/
“We released the two American detainees to prove to the American people and the world that the allegations made by [Joe] Biden and his administration are false allegations,” the official added.
Responding to the breakthrough, President Joe Biden thanked Qatar for its efforts.
“We have been working around-the-clock to free American citizens who were taken hostage by Hamas, and we have not ceased our efforts to secure the release of those who are still being held,” he said.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry remains committed to the ongoing negotiations, stating it will “continue our dialogue with both the Israelis and Hamas, and we hope these efforts will lead to the release of all civilian hostages from every nationality.”
Israel declared war on the Strip in response to ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’, an unprecedented attack on Israel carried out by the Al-Qassam Brigades. The historic operation saw the Palestinian resistance group break out from the besieged Gaza Strip and into occupied areas through air, land and sea attacks.
Following two weeks of relentless Israeli bombing, Gaza’s death toll has now exceeded 4,385, including at least 1,756 children.
Palestinian health officials have reported that over a thousand Gaza residents are still missing and many are suspected to be buried under the rubble.
On Friday, the Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church, a 12th-century structure, was partially destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, resulting in the death of 18 Christian Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Minister of Health Mai Alkaila has issued an urgent call to international human rights organisations and the global community to protect Al Quds Hospital from likely Israeli bombardment.
Her appeal followed the catastrophic bombing of Al Ahli Baptist Hospital on Tuesday, which claimed around 500 Palestinian lives, including hundreds of children.