Qatar’s prime minister has said “good progress” was made during a meeting between intelligence officials from Egypt, Israel and the United States over the weekend to discuss a possible deal to secure a truce in the Israel-Hamas war and the release of captives held by Palestinian groups in Gaza.
Spy chiefs from the three countries, which have been leading negotiations on agreements to pause fighting since the start of the war on October 7, met over the weekend in the French capital Paris.
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The sides discussed a potential deal that would include a phased truce that would see women and children released first and humanitarian aid entering the besieged Gaza Strip, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al Thani confirmed on Monday.
“We are hoping to relay this proposal to Hamas and to get them to a place where they engage positively and constructively in the process,” the prime minister said during an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, the US.
Qatar’s prime minister also said that Hamas had demanded a permanent ceasefire as a precondition to enter negotiations.
“I believe we moved from that place to a place that potentially might lead to a ceasefire permanently in the future,” he said.
Al Thani said that talks are “in a much better place than where we were a few weeks ago”.
Around 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 after the group’s fighters launched a surprise attack from Gaza on southern Israel, killing at least 1,139 people, according to Israeli figures.
Israel responded with a devastating bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, killing more than 26,600 people, according to Palestinian health officials.
Qatar and the US led negotiations of a previous weeklong truce in late November that saw more than 100 captives released by Palestinian groups in Gaza and more than 200 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons released in exchange.
Since then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under increasing pressure on multiple fronts, as families of the captives call for a deal to secure the return of their loved ones, as members of his far-right ruling coalition push for an escalation of the war, and as key ally the US has criticised Israel over the civilian death toll in Gaza.
Last week, Netanyahu rejected a proposal by Hamas to end the war and release captives in exchange for withdrawing Israeli forces, releasing prisoners and accepting the armed group’s governance of Gaza.
The Israeli prime minister said that accepting Hamas’s conditions would mean leaving the armed group “intact” and that Israel’s soldiers had “fallen in vain”. He has often said that only a maximum pressure campaign would spur the group to release all the captives.
The Qatari prime minister noted that his country is not “a superpower that can impose something on a party,” in response to earlier claims by Netanyahu that Qatar has failed to use its leverage to pressure Hamas.
Doha hosts Hamas’s political office and is the main residence of senior political official Ismail Haniyeh.
“We are using our good offices to connect, bridge gaps, to come up with some alternatives. And this way has worked,” he said, referring to previous mediations facilitated by Qatar.