The families also met with Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al Khulaifi, a key figure in the previous agreement leading to the release of over 100 hostages.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has told the families of six US and Israeli captives that Israel’s recent killing of senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut had significantly complicated efforts to secure a new deal, an Axios report said.
This marked the first occasion the Qatari prime minister hosted the families of Israeli captives in Doha, the report, which cited statements from a Qatari official and an Israeli source, said.
Qatar has been actively striving to revive indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas and push for a new deal aimed at securing the release of at least 40 captives in exchange for a halt in the war on Gaza and the release of Palestinian detainees.
However, recent developments added hurdles to the negotiation process. Hamas presented Israel with a new deal proposal a week ago, including a demand for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Israel reportedly rejected the proposal.
The assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh Al-Arouri in the southern Beirut suburb on Tuesday further heightened tensions.
In a Doha press conference on Sunday, Qatar’s prime minister confirmed that Arouri’s killing had affected mediation between Hamas and Israel.
In the joint conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sheikh Mohammed asserted that Qatar will continue its efforts.
Doha committed to secure release of captives
In their meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, the families shared stories of their relatives held captive in Gaza, Axios said.
The Qatari prime minister reportedly explained the complexity of the ongoing negotiations, citing challenges faced on both sides, exacerbated by the recent escalation after al-Arouri’s assassination.
“The Prime Minister said it is more difficult to talk to Hamas after what happened in Beirut,” the Qatari official told Axios.
Despite the challenges, Sheikh Mohammed reportedly expressed personal commitment towards continuing efforts to secure a new captive exchange deal, assuring the families that Doha would persist in using every resource available.
The families also met with Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al Khulaifi, who heads the Qatari negotiation team with Hamas and Israel.
Al Khulaifi, a key figure in the previous agreement leading to the release of over 100 captives, reassured the families of Qatar’s commitment.
“Qatar is painfully aware of the suffering of the remaining hostages and their loved ones,” the Qatari official told Axios.
“We have engaged directly with the hostages’ families to share as much information as possible and to assure them that Qatar is committed to using every resource to secure their release. We will continue to engage with these families,” the official said.
“We are using every possible channel, and collaborating closely with our counterparts in the U.S. and Israel…but Qatar is a mediator. It does not control Hamas,” the official said, acknowledging the increasing difficulty in maintaining communication channels due to the escalating bombardment in Gaza and elsewhere, “which candidly complicates the hostage negotiations”.
“Clearly, there is more work to be done. We are committed to continuing for as long as necessary,” the official told the outlet.
The talks centred around a ceasefire appeared to be at a deadlock following the expiration of a week-long pause on December 1.
The mediation of Qatar, alongside Egypt, had resulted in the temporary truce that lasted between November 24 and December 1 following two extensions.
The pause led to the release of at least 110 Israeli and foreign captives from Gaza, according to a Doha News tally. As part of the deal, Israel released 240 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
Israel has since rejected all attempts at reaching a ceasefire in Gaza and persisted in its genocidal war on the Strip.
Since October 7, Israel has killed at least 22,722 Palestinians in Gaza while injuring 58,166 others, according to the latest figures by the Strip’s health authorities. Around 70% of those killed have been women and children.