US President Biden and Qatari leaders discuss the Gaza ceasefire and prisoner exchange in a phone call, emphasising joint international efforts to ease tension and facilitate humanitarian aid.
US President Joe Biden discussed with Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani the implementation of the captive and prisoner exchange deal and humanitarian pause in Gaza in a phone call on Saturday, according to a White House statement.
The discussion focused on “joint international efforts to reduce tension and escalation”, with a particular emphasis on facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
On Thursday, Biden expressed his gratitude towards Sheikh Tamim for his crucial role in mediating a four-day temporary humanitarian pause, which commenced early Friday in Gaza.
Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip had witnessed severe devastation due to the Israeli onslaught.
Friday marked a landmark achievement as the first day of the ceasefire – with Israel and Hamas exchanging 24 Israelis and foreigners for 39 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
The exchange is part of a broader agreement stipulating the phased release of captives and prisoners over four days.
The exchange, however, faced a momentary setback late on Saturday, when Hamas accused Israel of breaching the truce terms, potentially jeopardising the agreement. The situation was salvaged after Qatar, the mediator of the agreement, announced the resolution of these obstacles.
Early Sunday, the agreement seemed to regain momentum with the release of a second batch of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and captives held by Hamas.
The ceasefire, a collaborative effort of Qatar, Egypt, and the US, aims to release at least 50 captives by Hamas and 150 Palestinian prisoners by Israel, all of whom are women and children.
This pause has provided a much-needed respite to the 2.3 million inhabitants of Gaza, who have been enduring relentless bombardment, resulting in widespread displacement and destruction.
The recent military campaign by Israel in the Gaza Strip was initiated following a cross-border attack by Hamas on 7 October.
The Palestinian death toll has risen to at least 14,854, including 6,150 children and over 4,000 women.
The Israeli government claims that around 1,200 Israelis were killed in the 7 October attacks – although it remains unclear how they died.