Negotiations between Israel and Hamas are still ongoing despite Israel’s decision to expand its ground operations in Gaza, according to sources cited by Reuters. The talks, which are being mediated by Qatar, have not broken down but are now progressing at a slower pace. Qatar, with close ties to Hamas and hosting its political bureau in Doha, has described this diplomatic channel as “instrumental” in countering the escalations in the region.
Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari confirmed the backchanneling in an interview with CNN, stating that various sides had approached Qatar to help maintain ties between the two belligerents. He emphasized that this channel is crucial for mediating the release of hostages held by Hamas and stressed that as long as it contributes to creating peace, Qatar cannot afford to lose it. However, he acknowledged that the escalating situation on the ground has made the negotiations considerably more difficult.
The violence in Gaza has resulted in the capture of more than 200 people, including soldiers, civilians, and foreign nationals. Qatar has previously played a significant role in securing the release of four Hamas hostages, receiving praise from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for its efforts in this regard.
Contradictory reports have emerged regarding the progress of the negotiations. Axios claimed that Israel had expanded its ground and air operations in Gaza after talks with Hamas hit an impasse. However, CNN’s sources contradicted this assessment, stating that there has been significant progress in freeing the hostages.
On Saturday, Yahya al-Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, announced that the group is ready to conduct an immediate prisoner swap deal and release all captives in their custody, on the condition that the agreement includes the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
During a meeting with representatives of the hostage families, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was urged to agree to an “everyone for everyone” prisoner swap. While Netanyahu did not make any commitments, he promised to exhaust every possibility to bring the captives home.
As the negotiations continue, it remains crucial for all parties involved to prioritize the safety and well-being of the hostages and work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Qatar’s mediation efforts and the diplomatic channel it has established play a crucial role in achieving this goal. The international community must also support these efforts and encourage both Israel and Hamas to engage in productive dialogue to bring an end to the hostilities.