Brett McGurk reportedly held talks in Doha with Qatar’s Prime Minister about the escalating regional tensions and efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages.
United States President Joe Biden’s top Middle East adviser, Brett McGurk, reportedly held talks on Tuesday in Doha with Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani about escalating regional tensions and the concerted efforts to secure the release of captives currently held in Gaza, Axios reported.
Several American citizens remain among the captives in Gaza.
Qatar has been actively striving to revive indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel and pushing for a new deal aimed at securing the release of at least 40 captives in exchange for a halt in the war on Gaza and the release of Palestinian detainees.
However, recent developments added hurdles to the negotiation process. Hamas presented Israel with a new deal proposal a week ago, including a demand for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Israel reportedly rejected the proposal.
The assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in a southern Beirut suburb last Tuesday further heightened these tensions.
In a Doha press conference on Sunday, Qatar’s prime minister confirmed that al-Arouri’s killing had affected mediation between Hamas and Israel.
The mediation of Qatar, alongside Egypt, had resulted in the temporary truce that lasted between November 24 and December 1 following two extensions.
Israel has since rejected all attempts at reaching a ceasefire in Gaza and persisted in its genocidal war on the Strip.
However, the dialogue has now resumed, with McGurk actively participating to bridge the divides and facilitate progress, according to Axios.
McGurk’s trip to the Gulf country comes on the heels of a recent visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who embarked on a regional tour to address the ongoing genocide in Gaza and heightened tensions in the Middle East.
Blinken, in a meeting on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, engaged with the families of the American captives in Gaza, emphasising the administration’s commitment to ensuring the safe return of all captives to their families.
“We’re intensely focused on bringing the remaining hostages home,” Blinken told reporters on Tuesday.
This comes against the backdrop of provocative moves by Israel which reportedly maintained that Palestinians will not be allowed to return to northern Gaza if Hamas does not agree to a new captive release deal, two senior Israeli officials told Axios on Tuesday.
“We are not going to allow Palestinians to go back to their homes in northern Gaza if there is no progress with the release of hostages,” one senior Israeli official told the American outlet.
One Israeli official told Axios that Israel is using the return of Palestinians to Gaza as “significant leverage” for a new hostage deal.
Another senior Israeli official noted that Washington and Tel Aviv agree that the Palestinians’ return to the north will not happen soon due to the ongoing war.
This came as a response to Blinken’s call for Palestinians’ right to return to Gaza during his visit to Qatar on Sunday: “Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow,” a matter that is likely on the agenda of his meeting with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.