Saturday, April 20, 2024

Israel, Hamas “nowhere near a deal” over Gaza: Qatar

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari has declared that a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas is not imminent.

“We are right now engaged in constructive dialogue between both sides; the situation on the ground is very much difficult, and we are nowhere near a deal at the moment,” Al-Ansari told CNN.

Al-Ansari added issues remain, including finalizing where Israeli troops would end up, how many people would be moving in and out of Gaza, and how aid could enter the enclave.

“We are exchanging language between the parties and waiting to see if that will accomplish something in the next couple of days.”

Qatar was integral in mediating the only pause in fighting in the five-month war back in November. Al Ansari said a new format is needed this time around.

“We tried the day-to-day pause formula of last time, and that did not work, because at the end, both sides will disagree over the lists and how to implement them. We need a more comprehensive first phase that would allow us some time to enact negotiations for the next phases,” he added.

The Qatari official stated some officials — including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — “have the keys to secure a deal right now”, urging them to consider negotiations.

“Every day that goes by is a risk to the life of the hostages, a risk to the life of civilians in Gaza, and it’s not in anybody’s interest — especially the people of Israel and the security of Israel — for this war to continue,” he continued.

CIA Director Bill Burns on Tuesday offered a small measure of hope for progress in the indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel over a potential ceasefire deal. There is “still the possibility” of such a deal, Burns said, but it is “a very tough process”.

“I don’t think anyone can guarantee success. The only thing I think you can guarantee is that the alternatives are worse,” Burns stated during congressional testimony.

“They’re worse for innocent civilians who are suffering in Gaza. They’re worse for the hostages and their families. And I think they’re worse for all of us.”

Burns has been a lead negotiator for the US side, as the United States, Qatar and Egypt have worked to broker a deal that would exchange the release of Hamas-held hostages for a pause in the fighting.

At least 1,140 people were killed and about 250 captives were taken in Hamas-led attacks on southern Israel on October 7. More than 100 captives were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive on Gaza has killed more than 31,000 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

The nearly five months of fighting have left much of Gaza in ruins and created a worsening humanitarian catastrophe, with many, especially in the devastated northern region, scrambling for food to survive.

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