Two Qatari military planes landed this Wednesday at Egypt’s Al Arish airport, in the Sinai Peninsula. They are carrying medicines which must be delivered immediately to the Gaza Strip, both to the hostages captured in Israel on October 7 and to the civilian population of the Palestinian enclave. The agreement between Israel and Hamas to ensure that kidnapped people with chronic illnesses (a third of the more than 100 prisoners held by Islamic militias) receive the medicine they need represents a humanitarian gesture that portends a new agreement like the one reached two months ago allowed the exchange of kidnapped people for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. “Serious and intense negotiations are underway in Qatar (with this objective),” said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, on Tuesday evening, who was optimistic about quickly obtaining of a new release of hostages.
The internal office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu limited itself on Tuesday evening to reporting on Qatar’s humanitarian mediation, without providing further details. A senior Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzuk, clarified on Wednesday that the agreement reached provides for the supply of medicine to the hostages in exchange for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the civilian population of Gaza. In statements to the Qatari network Al Jazeera cited by Efe, Abu Marzuk explained that for each box of medicine sent to the hostages, 1,000 boxes will be provided to the residents of the Gaza Strip.
The medicines, numbering 140 specific drugs in total, will be delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross to hospitals in the Gaza Strip, without Israel being able to inspect the shipments. Netanyahu dismissed Israeli forces’ failure to record the aid sent, saying it was a “military decision.” Of the 240 people kidnapped on October 7 near the border with Gaza, some 130 are still captive in the enclave, probably hidden in the tunnels of Hamas militias, although it is feared that more than twenty of them they perished.
Hamas ruled out France’s mediation in the drug delivery deal, as initially planned, due to “lack of confidence in the French government due to its position of support for the Israeli occupation,” Abou stressed. Marzuk. He also assured that, along with the agreement, the entry of humanitarian aid and food into the coastal enclave would increase.
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Qatar’s mediation, supported by Egypt, received support from Washington. The Israeli Prime Minister, however, appears reluctant to engage in a new exchange with Hamas, as this would involve suspending, at least temporarily, the military campaign aimed at completely defeating the Islamic resistance movement’s militias. White House Middle East envoy Brett McGurk is in Doha, the Qatari capital, to participate in the negotiations. McGurk has already intervened in the agreement to exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners concluded between November and December.
Israel’s security cabinet leading the war in the Gaza Strip last week rejected a Qatari proposal to release all hostages in exchange for a cessation of hostilities and the departure of Hamas leaders into exile. Israel abandoned plans to impose the “unacceptable condition” of troop withdrawal and an end to fighting. It was the director of Mossad (foreign espionage), David Barnea, who presented the proposal received from Doha, an initiative behind which Israeli political analysts believed to see pressure from the United States.
At the same time, attacks by the Israeli army have intensified in recent hours in southern Gaza, where dozens of Palestinians have lost their lives. This Wednesday, Israeli army spokesmen reported operations in several points in the central area and the south of the Gaza Strip, a territory which remains subject to almost total cuts in telephone and Internet communications for the sixth consecutive day. The death toll in Gaza since the start of the war now exceeds 24,448, although Gazan authorities estimate that more than 7,000 bodies are still found under the rubble.
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