Despite the release of four captives, Israel has intensified its non-stop bombardment on Gaza, making Qatari mediation efforts more challenging.
Thailand’s Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara is heading to Qatar and Egypt on Tuesday for talks on the release of 22 Thai captives held by Hamas in Gaza, Bangkok’s news agency reported.
The report confirmed that Parnpree is scheduled to meet Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha before heading to Cairo on November 1.
“There have been multiple communications, whether through media or telephone conversations, and those appointed to coordinate have expressed the urgent need for the release of Thai captives as they went to Israel for work and had no conflicts with anyone,” the report said.
The Thai official stressed that Bangkok has been working “to ensure the quick release of the Thai detainees, although their whereabouts and whether they are within or outside Gaza are currently unknown.”
Hamas captured at least 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 operation, the biggest of its kind in Palestinian modern history, was carried out by Al Qassam Brigades—Hamas’ armed wing—which said it was in response to Israel’s non-stop attacks on Palestinians and storming of holy sites, including Al Aqsa Mosque.
However, Israel has since used the operation to justify its brutal onslaught against millions of Palestinians in Gaza. Since the start of the war, the IOF has killed at least 8,306 Palestininas, including 3,457 children—who represent 40% of the figure.
Despite Israel killing at least 50 of the captives located in Gaza, the IOF has intensified its attacks on the Strip – one of the most densely populated regions in the world.
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 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.
Hamas said it released all captives on humanitarian grounds and the Gulf state has confirmed that efforts to release more people from Gaza have not stopped.
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.”
The IOF has been advancing into Gaza as part of its threats to wage an all-out ground invasion on the Strip, though it has faced Hamas fighters foiling their attempts.
On Monday, Hamas released a video of three captives addressing the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accusing him of using their lives as a political 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.”
In a press briefing shortly after, Netanyahu described the video as “psychological propaganda” and rejected 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.
The war has caused a humanitarian catastrophe on the ground in Gaza, where at least one million have been internally displaced. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) noted that the destruction of homes would take years to rebuild.
Gaza’s government media office confirmed last week that Israel has dropped more than 12,000 tonnes of explosives on the Strip since the start of the war—equivalent to the United States’ nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.