Doha has faced disinformation campaigns designed to discredit its reputation on the global stage over the past three weeks.
Qatar has fired back at the United States House Intelligence Committee for spreading misinformation on its hosting of the Hamas political bureau as Doha continues to engage in high-level talks to release captives as part of de-escalation efforts in Gaza.
The US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), also known as the House Intelligence Committee, shared a video on Friday from an interview between Fox News and congressman Michael Waltz.
During the interview, Waltz, a member of the republican party, accused Qatar and Turkiye of “backing” Hamas and warned both would “feel the ramifications” in the case of any harm befalling US captives held in Gaza.
“We need to be sending a very clear message to Hamas’ backers, whether that’s Turkiye or Qatar or others…that if the hair on an American’s head is touched, they will all feel the ramifications, not just Hamas leadership themselves,” Waltz told Fox News.
In response to the video shared by HSPCI on X, formerly known as Twitter, Qatar’s embassy in the US responded by calling out the intelligence body’s contribution to the latest wave of misinformation.
“We are surprised that [HSPCI] is promoting misinformation on their official account, knowing that the Hamas political office in Qatar was opened following a request by the US to establish indirect lines of communication with Hamas,” the embassy said.
“Not only is this counterproductive to Qatar’s efforts in ongoing negotiations, it also makes a direct threat to a US ally. Spreading these false narratives create obstacles for constructive mediation efforts,” the statement added.
Hamas opened its political office in Doha in 2012 following Washington’s request to establish a channel of communication, a move that has allowed Qatar to successfully mediate between the conflicting parties on several occasions to achieve crucially needed ceasefires.
Qatar has faced similar criticism over the past decade after opening the Taliban’s political office – also in response to a request by the US – to ensure the facilitation of mediation talks. When the Taliban captured control of Kabul in 2021, Doha was able to safely evacuate thousands of foreigners from Afghanistan.
On 13 October, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani slammed exploitative attempts to harm its reputation as a key mediator.
“I must stress here that Qatar’s commitment and its role as a partner in peacemaking and a mediator in reducing conflict should not be exploited to harm my country’s reputation through malicious accusations, the falsity of which previous experiences have proven,” Sheikh Mohammed said at the time.
Meanwhile last week, a Republican candidate in the US presidential race openly called for the assassination of Hamas leaders in Qatar.
“If Israel and Mossad want to… take out every last leader of Hamas wherever they may be hiding, from Doha to Dresden — host a ‘Red Wedding’ at the Four Seasons in Qatar the next time [Ismail] Haniyeh and [Khaled] Mashal show up — they should go ahead and do it,” Vivek Ramaswamy said in a post on X.
White House National Security Council John Kirby told a press briefing on Thursday that “Qatar has been helpful in getting” Americans out of Gaza, noting the Gulf state “has lines of communication with Hamas that almost nobody else has.”
“We are working with Qatar to get our people out and to help get aid in. That’s a priority right now. And obviously, we’re also helping Israel go after Hamas,” he said, responding to a question criticising Washington’s praise of Doha as the host of the Hamas office.
Qatar’s mediation efforts
The Gulf mediator has assumed a pivotal role since the start of the war on Gaza on October 7, juggling multiple diplomatic and humanitarian fronts in hopes of reaching a ceasefire.
Reports said the US and a number of European countries were quick to contact Qatar moments after Hamas’ ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’, in which the Palestinian resistance group captured more than 230 Israelis—including members of the occupation forces (IOF)—and dual citizens.
Since the start of the war, the IOF killed at least 9,227 Palestinians, including 3,826 children, with more than 1,000 others believed to be still trapped under the rubble.
While Qatar has succeeded at releasing a total of four captives from Hamas, officials say Israel’s non-stop bombardment has severely hindered its mediation process.
“With this violence increasing everyday, with this bombing continuous everyday our task has become even more difficult. But despite that, we remain hopeful, we remain committed to our role of reaching out to the parties with the aim of reaching a positive result,” Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed Al Khulaifi told Sky News last week.
On November 1, Qatar’s mediation led to the opening of the shared Gaza-Egypt Rafah crossing for the first time since the start of the war, enabling the exit of hundreds of foreign nationals and critically wounded.
A Reuters report at the time pointed to Qatar brokering an agreement on the matter between Egypt, Israel and Hamas in coordination with the US. However, it is separate from other negotiations undertaken by Doha, including the release of captives from Hamas.
More than 500 foreigners, including dual nationals, and 81 people who were seriously injured were able to exit Gaza when the border first opened. Rafah opened up again for a limited period on 2 November for 596 foreign and dual nationals.
Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf’s parents-in-law were also able to exit Gaza under the Qatar-mediated deal.
US President Joe Biden had thanked regional partners, in particular Qatar, for their role in facilitating the evacuation of injured Palestinians and foreign nationals, including American citizens from Gaza.
“I want to thank our partners, in particular Qatar, who worked so closely with us to support negotiations to facilitate the departure of these citizens,” he said during a visit to Northfield, Minnesota.
Doha’s foreign minister is scheduled to meet his counterparts in Amman on Saturday for an emergency meeting amid calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will join the meeting, which includes officials from Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting comes shortly after Blinken visited Tel Aviv on Thursday for the third time since the start of the war. Blinken had discussed a humanitarian pause to release the captives from Hamas and to allow the distribution of aid, AFP reported.
However, Netanyahu has rejected such calls and vowed to continue bombarding Gaza with its full force unless Hamas releases all captives. On Friday, Israel struck three hospitals and a United Nations-run school, all of which are sheltering thousands of Palestinians.