The United States and the UK have been holding talks with Qatar over possibly mediating the release of the hostages, which include American and British nationals.
The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is heading to Qatar over the “next three days” to seek the Gulf diplomatic power’s support in securing the release of hostages and repatriating British nationals from Gaza.
The British government confirmed on Wednesday that Cleverly’s visit to Doha comes as part of a tour that includes Egypt and Turkiye “to help prevent the conflict spreading across the region and to seek a peaceful resolution.”
“He will push for agreement on humanitarian access to Gaza, the release of British hostages and foreign nationals, and securing safe passage for British Nationals to leave Gaza,” the UK government said.
In Doha, Cleverly is scheduled to meet Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
“I am meeting counterparts from influential states in the region to push for calm and stability, facilitate humanitarian access into Gaza and work together to secure the release of hostages,” Cleverly said, referring to the three countries he is visiting.
Cleverly will discuss the opening of the Rafah crossing in Egypt to “allow lifesaving aid in and British and other foreign nationals to leave.”
The Rafah crossing has been shut for 10 days due to Israel’s attacks, the latest of which was carried out on Monday. The shared Gaza-Egypt crossing is the only way in and out of the Strip for its residents and basic necessities.
Hundreds have been left stranded near the border waiting to exit Gaza amid the ongoing Israeli bombing campaign, which has killed at least 3,480 Palestininas, including an estimated 1,200 children.
Israel has used the 7 October ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ as a pretext for its atrocities in Gaza.
The operation was carried out by Hamas’ armed wing, during which the Palestinian fighters managed to break out from besieged Gaza into occupied areas through air, land and sea attacks.
It also marked the biggest Palestinian attack on Israel in modern history, which saw the fighters capture a number of Israeli civilians and the occupation forces (IOF). Israel confirmed on Wednesday that the number of hostages in Gaza is “no less than 203”.
The United States and the UK have been holding talks with Qatar, the host of Hamas’ office, over possibly mediating the release of the hostages, which include American and British nationals.
This was a matter discussed on Friday between Qatar’s foreign minister and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during the latter’s visit to the country.
Responding to a question on the matter from the press, Sheikh Mohammed maintained that “it is very early to judge” progress in the talks, citing “the intensity of the war right now”.
Speaking alongside Sheikh Mohammed, Blinken said the US is “working intensively” with the Gulf state in order to secure the hostages.
The hostages’ file was also discussed over the phone on Tuesday between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
“We are working around the clock with our partners and allies to secure their freedom and importantly in amongst my other regional calls I spoke specifically with the Amir of Qatar yesterday on this very issue which we discussed at length,” Sunak told British MPs on Wednesday ahead of his visit to Tel Aviv.
Similar to the US, the UK has long avoided holding its ally Israel to account for its crimes against Palestinians while blaming Hamas for the latest escalations in Gaza. Today, Britain has yet to publicly apologise to Palestinians for the Balfour declaration, which approved the establishment of Israel.
Sunak added: “The Qatari government is taking a lead and working intensely to help release hostages using their contacts in the region and we are working very closely with them to ensure the safe return of the British hostages.”
Since last week, Qatar has been in close contact with key international partners— namely the US, the UK, Iran, Turkiye, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, among others—in an effort to end to the Israeli escalations in Gaza.
The Gulf state is also known for its past successful mediations in the release of hostages and prisoners globally, including last month’s milestone US-Iran prisoner swap. On Sunday, Qatar facilitated the repatriation of four Ukrainian children from Russia, at Ukraine’s request.
In 2021, Qatar carried out mass evacuations following the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, facilitating what has been described as the largest airlift of people in history. The Gulf state, which hosts the US Al Udeid Air Base, managed to safely evacuate at least 80,000 Afghans and foreigners from Kabul.
One massacre after another
Gaza’s humanitarian situation has worsened since last week under non-stop Israeli bombardment and a complete siege on the Strip.
Since the start of the bombing campaign, the IOF has mainly targeted hospitals, schools and residential buildings. The IOF committed around 433 massacres against families in the Strip, Palestine’s news agency Wafa reported on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Israel committed a massacre at the Al-Ahli Arabi Baptist Hospital in Gaza, killing around 500 Palestinians, many of whom were taking shelter at the hospital after being forcibly displaced from their homes by the IOF’s bombardment.
Authorities in Gaza have declared that the attack as the biggest since 2008.
On the same day, Israel attacked a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), where displaced Palestinians were also taking shelter.
On Thursday, the IOF targeted the vicinity of the main headquarters of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the vicinity of the Al-Quds hospital in Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood, where around 8,000 displaced people were taking refuge.