Israel’s relentless bombardment has entered its fifth day, with fears of a ground invasion looming large.
Qatar has appeared to adopt a cautious approach to reports on progress being made in mediation efforts, saying the current crisis in Gaza is not “mere escalation”, Qatar News Agency reported.
Dr. Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, the Qatari foreign ministry spokesman, emphasised his concern in a recent briefing in Doha, noting the gravity of the current war and complexities on the ground.
“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 during a weekly media briefing.
Al Ansari also detailed Qatar’s active diplomatic engagement since the start of the war and said these efforts entail the highest diplomatic levels both regionally and globally.
He said the government’s core objective remains to harmonise international and regional responses to the aggression and consider potential peace-building interventions.
The immediate cessation of hostilities, ending the bloodshed, ensuring the safe release of detainees, and preventing this conflict from spiralling into a broader regional crisis are all central to Qatar’s peace negotiations.
“We are worried about the developments in south Lebanon that they do not become part of this escalation,” he added.
Highlighting Qatar’s unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian cause, Dr. Al Ansari called for a comprehensive, just resolution, rooted within the Arab initiative. This solution envisions the birth of an independent Palestinian state, grounded in the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem — the heart of Palestinian heritage — as its capital.
Israel has been bombing the besieged Gaza Strip for five consecutive days in what has been declared as the deadliest attack in at least 15 years. The occupying force has mainly targeted residential buildings, schools, and medical facilities across the besieged enclave.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Israel has killed at least 1,000 Palestinians, including at least 260 children, though the figure is expected to rise amid the ongoing IOF attacks. Around half of Gaza’s 2 million population are children.
The bombardment on Gaza has also displaced at least 180,000 Palestinians, per recent figures published by UNRWA.
The Israeli occupation has further exacerbated their suffering by imposing a complete embargo on Gaza, which has already been blockaded since 2007.
Announcing the siege on Monday, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described 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.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has condemned the Israeli decision, which he said “risks seriously compounding the already dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
“The imposition of sieges that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited under international humanitarian law,” Turk said in a statement on Tuesday.
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”.
The UN said the siege on Gaza “will undoubtedly cost civilian lives and constitute collective punishment”. It also said there is “clear evidence” of war crimes committed by both sides.
“Reports that armed groups from Gaza have gunned down hundreds of unarmed civilians are abhorrent and cannot be tolerated. Taking civilian hostages and using civilians as human shields are war crimes,” the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and Israel said.
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”.