Qatar and Hamas assure that the truce is "close"

The drums of a pause in the barbarism over Gaza are sounding louder and louder.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
20 November 2023 Monday 15:25
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Qatar and Hamas assure that the truce is "close"

The drums of a pause in the barbarism over Gaza are sounding louder and louder. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, announced yesterday to journalists the closeness of an agreement, with the mediation of Qatar, for Hamas to release a group of hostages in exchange for Israel accepting a ceasefire. An optimism that was added this Tuesday morning by the head of the political wing of the Islamist group, Ismail Haniye, who also considered the agreement close.

"The movement delivered its response to the brothers in Qatar and the mediators, and we are close to reaching a truce agreement," said Haniye, exiled for years in Qatar, in a brief statement published on Telegram. Israel, which vowed to annihilate Hamas after the unprecedented massacre of October 7 in southern Israel, which sparked the war, remains silent after these statements.

From Washington they also reinforced the idea of ​​the proximity of the pact: "We are closer now than before," said White House spokesman John Kirby. From Qatar they confirmed the forecasts. Negotiations for the release of the hostages are in the "final stages," Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said on Tuesday. "We have never been closer to an agreement," he added.

In the absence of confirmation of the details of the agreement, two sources close to the negotiations told France Presse on Tuesday that the pact would involve the release of "between 50 and 100" civilian hostages - Hamas last week offered up to 70 female and minor hostages - to exchange for the release of 300 women and children detained by Israel. The transfer would be carried out in stages, at a rate of "ten" Israeli hostages compared to "thirty" Palestinian prisoners per day.

But according to the same sources, Israel insisted on "family reunification" that is, if a civilian is released, his partner will also be released, even if he is a soldier. Which Hamas, which opposes the release of soldiers, rejects for the moment. "Qatar and Egypt are currently working with the US administration to resolve this issue," they told the French agency. And "as soon as this point is resolved, the date of a five-day, possibly renewable, humanitarian truce will be announced."

The five-day truce provides for "a complete ceasefire and the cessation of flights by Israeli planes over the Gaza Strip, except over the north of the territory, where planes will be able to fly 18 hours a day," according to sources close to the affair. The northern area, where the fighting is currently taking place and where most of the Israeli bombs fall, represents a third of the Gaza Strip and, according to the UN, some 800,000 people still live there. The agreement would also include the entry into the Palestinian territory, including the north, of between 100 and 300 trucks with food and medical aid, as well as fuel, these sources added.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the body in charge of the two previous and only hostage releases, which involved four captives, met with Haniye yesterday. Its president, Mirjana Spoljaric, stated that although the ICRC was not part of the negotiations, as a neutral intermediary, it was willing to "facilitate any future release that the parties agree to."

The truce is vital for the survival of Gazans, after a month and a half of a war that has left more than 14,500 dead, the vast majority (13,300) in the Gaza Strip, as well as more than 6,5000 missing who could be under the rubble. . Added to this are 27,500 injured as well as more than 1.7 million displaced people - more than two thirds of the total population - who live in the midst of a serious humanitarian crisis due to the shortage of water, food, electricity, medicine and fuel due to the blockade imposed by Israel.

In this context, international pressure for a ceasefire has become more intense, and last week the UN Security Council approved a resolution to establish war pauses and humanitarian corridors in Gaza after four failed attempts since the beginning of the ceasefire. conflict.

Israel has so far refused a ceasefire and even rejected the UN resolution, arguing that it "is disconnected from reality and meaningless." But pressure for a ceasefire is also being felt within Israel's borders, especially from relatives of hostages captured by Hamas, who are advocating a truce in exchange for the return of their loved ones.

Last night, Beniamin Netanyahu and the War Cabinet met in Tel Aviv with a large group of relatives of the kidnapped people, who in recent days have redoubled their pressure on the Israeli prime minister. The families' unrest is growing more and more against the Government, who they criticize for prioritizing ending Hamas rather than bringing back their loved ones, and they consider that the ICRC is doing much more than them to achieve their liberation.