Biden and Qatar’s emir discuss Gaza hostages, humanitarian aid

Leaders discussed efforts to increase the flow of urgently needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Israeli hostages
People hold pictures as they demand the immediate release of hostages held in Gaza who were seized in the October attack by Hamas fighters, in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 4, 2023 [File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden pressed on Friday for the immediate release of hostages seized by Hamas in Israel during talks with the leader of Qatar, which has relations with the Palestinian group that governs Gaza.

Biden, in San Francisco for an Asia-Pacific summit, in a telephone call with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani “discussed the urgent need for all hostages held by Hamas to be released without further delay,” a White House statement said on Friday.

Biden also raised Israel’s decision to let two tankers of diesel each day into the war-torn Gaza Strip, following pleas from the United States.

Biden and the emir “discussed ongoing efforts to increase the flow of urgently needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza and Israel’s decision to resume fuel deliveries for life-saving aid,” the White House said.

The pair discussed “strategic relations between the two countries” and ways strengthen them, the Qatari Emiri Diwan said.

The diwan also said Sheikh Tamim held a call with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The two leaders discussed developments in Gaza, as well as other “regional and international developments of common interest”.

The call with Bahrain’s monarch comes as Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister travelled to Manama for meetings with the country’s crown prince and other top officials.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said the two sides “stressed the need to immediately stop the war in Gaza and protect civilians”.

Biden two days earlier had told reporters that he was “mildly hopeful” of reaching a deal to free the hostages, believed to include about 10 US citizens.

Fighters from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, on October 7 infiltrated Israel and killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s subsequent air and ground campaign has killed more than 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Qatar has in recent years rejected moves by other Gulf Arab monarchies towards normalising relations with Israel.

Source: News Agencies