Qatar, the host of the Hamas political bureau, has been leading negotiations to release civilians since the beginning of the escalations.
A top Qatari official said Doha would spare no efforts in attempting to release civilian captives being held in Gaza after a meeting in London between Doha’s ambassador and families of three children.
In a statement to Doha News on Wednesday, Qatar’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Fahd Al Attiyah said he met families of the captives and assured them Doha is working on securing their release from the group in Gaza.
The ambassador said he met with the mothers of the three children who called on Doha to intervene to help release them.
“We assured them that no effort is spared to resolve this situation and that we are working to end hostilities and unite people with their loved ones,” the envoy told Doha News.
While Qatar has refused to establish diplomatic relations with Israel due to its violations against Palestinians, Doha has become a crucial global partner in mediation efforts due to its hosting of a Hamas political bureau.
The Gulf state’s mediation has so far resulted in the release of four captives since Israel declared a brutal war last month that has killed at least 10,328 Palestinians, including 4,237 children. Hamas said all four captives – which included two elderly women – were released on humanitarian grounds.
Despite the initial breakthrough, Qatar has faced further complications amid intensifying Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
“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 on October 26.
On Tuesday, Hamas said it was close to releasing 12 additional foreign captives from Gaza but blamed Israel of obstructing the process with its ongoing bombardment.
Al-Qassam Brigades’ spokesperson Abu Obeida on Tuesday said the movement was “about to release 12 detainees in Gaza who held foreign nationalities” several days ago “but the occupation obstructed that”.
“We are still ready to release them, but the situation on the ground and the Zionist aggression that threatens their lives is what hinders this from being completed,” the statement added.
The statement came amid reports of efforts by Qatar and the US to establish a three day pause that would see Hamas release 10-15 captives during a three-day potential pause.
On Monday, the White House said Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed “the possibility of tactical pauses to provide civilians with opportunities to safely depart from areas of ongoing fighting, to ensure assistance is reaching civilians in need, and to enable potential hostage releases.”
In London, Qatar’s crucial position has been recognised even by critics.
Last week, a number of pro-Israel demonstrators gathered in front of Qatar’s embassy in London to demand the release of some 240 captives from Gaza. Footage and images that circulated on social media at the time showed hundreds of demonstrators hoisting the Israeli flag during the protest.
Reports cited organisers from the Bring Them Home Now initiative saying that Qatar has “positioned itself as a mediator of hostage release”.
“We are reaching out for help. We are reaching out to world leaders, to the Parliament to use whatever means they have at their disposal to bring the hostages home,” Gary Weiss, a member of Bring Them Home Now, told PA news agency.
Netanyahu under pressure
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been facing mounting pressure on several fronts for refusing to cease fire despite global pressure, evening snubbing Washington’s calls for a “humanitarian pause” to release captives.
In Tel Aviv, thousands of Israelis have flooded the streets to call for the release of all captives from Hamas and demanded Netanayhu’s resignation for mishandling the war and putting the lives of their relatives at jeopardy. Hamas has already confirmed 60 captives have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.
A video released by Hamas on October 30 showed three women captives lashing out at Netanyahu for his failure to secure their release and using their lives as a bargaining chip.
“You had to free us all and instead we are diving in your political, security, military chaos, because of the mess you made on October 7, because there was no army there,” one of the three captives said.
She added: “You are killing us, you want to kill us all. You want to find a way to kill us all. It’s not enough that you killed everyone[…] free us all.”
However, the Israeli official brushed off the woman’s plight and described the video as “psychological propaganda” while rejecting all calls for a ceasefire. The Israeli official said he believes a ceasefire would mean Israel would “surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism”.
“That will not happen,” he said. “Israel did not start this war. Israel did not want this war. But Israel will win this war,” he claimed at the time.