While Qatar has yet to publicly comment on the reported deal, the Rafah crossing opened for the first time on Wednesday.
Qatar has reportedly brokered an agreement between Egypt, Israel and Hamas in coordination with the United States that allows the evacuation of foreign passport holders and some seriously wounded individuals from Gaza through Rafah, Reuters and Al Jazeera reported on Wednesday.
The reported agreement enables the exit through the shared Gaza-Egypt Rafah crossing, the only portal in and out of the besieged enclave. While Qatar has yet to publicly comment on the reported deal, live footage broadcast on Al Jazeera on Wednesday morning showed hundreds flowing into the Rafah crossing as the gates opened.
It is unclear how long the crossing will remain open for dual national evacuees but Al Jazeera showed a number of ambulances awaiting injured patients on the Egyptian side.
However, a source told Reuters that the evacuation agreement is separate from other negotiations currently being undertaken by Doha, which primarily focus on the release of captives from Hamas as well as efforts for humanitarian ceasefires.
Since the start of the war on October 7, Israel has killed at least 8,525 Palestinians, including 3,457 children who represent more than 40% of the toll. Around 21,000 wounded individuals have been struggling to receive necessary treatment due to limited resources in the Strip, which has been under a brutal siege since October 8.
Ashraf Al-Qudra, the Palestinian health ministry spokesperson, warned on Tuesday that the generators at the Al-Shifa hospital were “hours away” from fully shutting down, calling for the intervention of oil-producing nations.
“We are calling on all our brothers in oil-producing nations to urgently intervene and supply al-Shifa Hospital and the Indonesian Hospital with fuel that’s needed to save the lives of the sick and injured,” Al-Qudra said.
Qatar’s captive release mediation
Qatar, the host of the Hamas political bureau, has been leading negotiations to release civilians from the Palestinian group as part of de-escalation efforts to end the bloodshed in Gaza.
The Al Qassam Brigades—Hamas’ armed wing—had captured around 230 people, including members of the Israeli occupation forces (IOF), during the surprise ‘Operation Al Aqsa Flood’ on October 7, when it infiltrated occupied territories through air, land and sea.
The heavyweight Gulf mediator helped free two American captives from Hamas on October 20, both identified as Judith Raanan and Natalie Raanan—a mother and a daughter.
Then on October 23, Qatar and Egypt pushed for the release of two elderly women from Hamas, both identified as 79-year old Nurit Yitzhak and 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz.
On Tuesday, Al-Qassam’s spokesperson Abu Obeida said in a video on Telegram that Hamas informed mediators that it would soon release foreign captives, though he made no mention of Qatar mediation nor the nationalities of those it would free.
Despite the release of the four captives, Israel has intensified its non-stop bombardment on Gaza, making Qatari mediation efforts more challenging.
“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 Thursday.
He added: “In any normal scenario, if the mediator wants to perform its task in the best way possible, we need to reach a period of calm, we need to reach a period where we can speak logically to both sides and come up with positive initiatives on that.”