Authorities in Qatar have not yet commented on a reported prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel.
Qatar is reportedly mediating a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel amid the latest ongoing Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip, sources told several outlets on Sunday.
“With US support, Qatar is seeking to accomplish an urgent agreement that would lead to the release of Israeli women captured by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian female prisoners in Israeli prisons,” the Hamas source told the Chinese news agency.
A source confirmed to Reuters that the talks were “moving positively”.
On Saturday, Hamas carried out the largest Palestinian attack on Israel in modern history and has since captured more than 130 Israelis including members of the Israeli occupation forces (IOF).
The Xinhua report claimed that Hamas informed Qatar that it will only agree to the prisoner swap if Israel releases all 36 Palestinian women prisoners from its jails.
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 has good relationships with Hamas and Israel. It would be able to succeed in its meditation efforts,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous, told the news outlet, noting that Doha approved the suggestion “in principal”.
The source added that “the upcoming hours would carry the Israeli response.”
Doha News has contacted authorities in Qatar but has yet to receive a response.
The Gulf state has a record of successful mediations of prisoner releases globally, most recently conjuring up a historic deal between the United States and Iran.
While authorities in Qatar have not yet commented on the alleged deal between Hamas and Israel, it confirmed diplomatic de-escalation efforts.
On Saturday, Qatari authorities confirmed Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani had been in contact with officials from the United States and the Arab region—namely Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.
Meanwhile, an Amiri Diwan statement detailing a phone call between Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “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”.
Protection of women prisoners
The Israeli women at the centre of the prisoner swap were captured by Hamas during ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, during which Palestinian resistance fighters managed to break out of the besieged Gaza Strip and infiltrate the occupied territories by land, air and sea.
Footage circulating on social media over the last two days have shown female Israelis, including elderly Israeli, being provided with food and clothing by Palestinian fighters, with activists highlighting the stark difference in the treatment of women prisoners between the IOF and Palestinians.
A viral video filmed inside an illegal Israeli settlement showed an elderly Israeli settler lying in bed unharmed as a Hamas fighter stood by her.
“We do not harm the elderly, innocent women, children or those in prayer,” the fighter said. He cited an Islamic law that obliges the protection of all women, children and the elderly during war.
There are currently 1,264 Palestinian administrative detainees, out of which at least 36 are women and 170 are children, per figures published by Palestine’s Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
This weekend’s capture of Israelis has prompted authorities to appoint an Israeli minister for prisoners and missing persons.
Gaza under attack
Gaza faced deadly Israeli attacks since Saturday that have killed at least 493 Palestinians, including children, and displaced more than 120,000 people.
The IOF has mainly targeted residential towers as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to reduce the besieged Palestinian enclave to “rubble”.
The latest flare up came after an operation carried out by Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades on Saturday. Since the surprise operation, at least 700 Israelis have been killed.
The operation was launched in response to intensified Israeli attacks on Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the repeated settler storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque in an attempt to change the status-quo of the holy Muslim site.
In a statement on Saturday, Qatar said it holds the Israeli occupation “solely” responsible for the ongoing flare ups while expressing its “deep concern” on the developments in Gaza.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds Israel alone responsible for the ongoing escalation due to its ongoing violations of the rights of the Palestinian people, the latest of which is the repeated raids on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli police,” the statement said.
The massive operation by Hamas, Gaza’s ruling party, is widely seen as a historic moment for Palestine, which has been living under Israeli occupation for 75 years.
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”.