Then Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani speaks to reporters in Doha, Qatar, June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon
The families of six Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza met with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani Saturday.
It is the first time Al Thani hosted families of Israeli hostages. Qatar, despite participating in negotiations with Israel and Hamas does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel.
The family arrived in Qatar on Friday, hoping to revive hostage negotiations, which have been stalled since early December, after Hamas abruptly ended the temporary ceasefire hostage release deal.
Thani reportedly told the families that negotiations with Hamas are more complicated following the assassination of Hamas Deputy commander Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut last week.
Israel has not publicly admitted responsibility for the attack, although statements by several leaders have been understood to offer confirmation of the Israeli involvement.
Qatar, along with Egypt, has been trying to restart negotiations since early December, reportedly proposing the release of 40 additional hostages, mainly women, in exchange for at least two weeks of ceasefire.
Recently, Hamas submitted a proposal for a hostage deal which involved a total Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and cessation of Israeli attacks, which Israel rejected.
The families of the hostages also met with Qatari Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry, Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al-Khulaifi, who is the head of the Qatari negotiation team and was one of the architects of the previous hostage deal.
A Qatari official told the families, “We are using every possible channel, and collaborating closely with our counterparts in the US and Israel…but Qatar is a mediator. It does not control Hamas.”
Qatar, which has been friendly towards Hamas, and even hosts several Hamas leaders, tried to lay blame for the difficulties in negotiations on Israel.
A Qatari official told Axios that they have had difficulty maintaining communication with Hamas due to the “escalation of bombardment in Gaza and elsewhere.”
It is believed that Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza are still holding 136 hostages, although not all the hostages are alive. The IDF said it believes that 25 of the hostages are dead based on information collected during operations in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas is reportedly unwilling to consider any deal which does not include a permanent ceasefire. Israel is unwilling to cede to this demand, as it has publicly stated that the elimination of Hamas is one of the two chief goals of its military campaign in the Gaza Strip.
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