Advertisement
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha. Alamy Stock Photo
Gaza

Qatar says Hamas response to new Gaza truce proposal is 'positive'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to discuss the proposal in Israel tomorrow.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 6th 2024, 7:20 PM

THE PRIME MINISTER of Qatar has said that Hamas’s response to a proposed new truce to free hostages in return for pausing the conflict in Gaza is “positive”. 

It comes as the Palestinian health ministry said heavy strikes and fighting in Gaza killed at least 107 people in the last 24 hours. 

The truce deal, which US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will take to Israel, proposes a six-week pause to fighting as Hamas frees hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and more aid enters Gaza, according to a Hamas source.

“We have received a reply from Hamas with regards to the general framework of the agreement with regards to hostages. The reply includes some comments, but in general it is positive,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said after meeting Blinken in Doha.

The proposed truce deal was hashed out in Paris during talks with Israel, Egypt and the CIA. The Qatari prime minister, who took part in the talks, said he was “optimistic” but declined to discuss the Hamas reply in detail, citing the “sensitivity of the circumstances”.

Hamas confirmed that it submitted its response to Egypt and Qatar.

Blinken, on his fifth regional tour since the current conflict began, said that he would discuss the proposal tomorrow in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced pressure from hardliners against perceived concessions to Hamas.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. But we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it,” Blinken said.

us-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-left-shakes-hands-with-qatars-prime-minister-and-foreign-affairs-minister-mohammed-bin-abdulrahman-al-thani-at-diwan-annex-in-doha-qatar-tuesday-feb-6-20 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, shakes hands with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The US envoy earlier met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, a day after he held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh.

Blinken and Sisi “discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all hostages held by Hamas,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

He also “expressed appreciation for Egypt’s leadership role in facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza”, Miller said.

‘Beyond catastrophic’

Israeli troops, with air and naval support, have been engaged in heavy combat centred on Gaza’s main southern city of Khan Younis, the hometown of Hamas’s Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar, much of which has been reduced to rubble.

Israel accuses Sinwar of masterminding the 7 October attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Militants also seized around 250 hostages. Israel says 132 remain in Gaza, including 28 who are believed to have been killed.

Israel’s military campaign has killed at least 27,585 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry.

The army said today that “over the past day, dozens of terrorists have been killed and approximately 80 individuals suspected of involvement in terrorist activity have been apprehended, including a number of terrorists that took part in the October 7 massacre”.

“No place is safe, no place at all – where shall we go?” one Palestinian, Mohamad Kozaat, said after six members of his family were wounded in an Israeli strike on Rafah.

Around 8,000 displaced people were evacuated from the besieged Al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis, where they had sought refuge, after weeks of heavy shelling and fighting nearby.

A spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said the organisation was told that the Al-Amal hospital, run by the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS), had been largely emptied following a lengthy siege by Israeli forces.

“The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is beyond catastrophic,” Tommaso Della Longa told reporters in Geneva.

“Eight thousand internally displaced people who sought refuge in our Palestinian Red Crescent hospital in Khan Yunis … left the hospital yesterday.”

Della Longa said the hospital was hit several times, including on Friday, when a PRCS volunteer was killed. Around 100 elderly, wounded and disabled patients remain there, with about 100 staff and volunteers, the ICRC said.

Della Longa said that Al-Amal had faced immense challenges, such as dire shortages of medicines, food and water, even before it was evacuated.

48cadcb046864c46b9c61d4efeb1e2f3 Palestinians look at a residential house destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Hatem Ali / AP/PA Hatem Ali / AP/PA / AP/PA

The United Nations humanitarian monitors said that Israel’s evacuation orders in Gaza now cover two-thirds of the region’s land.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in Gaza since October because of the fighting and Israel’s expanding evacuation orders.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said in its latest daily report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza that intense Israeli bombardment by land, sea and air is being reported across much of the Strip, resulting in civilian casualties, displacement, and destruction of civilian infrastructure.

More than half of Gaza’s population, which stood at 2.3 million people before the war, is now packed into the town of Rafah near the border crossing with Egypt and surrounding areas, according to the OCHA.

Unicef has reported that most newly displaced people have only 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day for drinking, cooking and washing.

Israel initially focused its attacks on Gaza in northern areas, telling civilians to evacuate towards the south, but has turned to bombing southern cities like Khan Younis and Rafah, killing refugees who had fled from the north.

The areas affected by evacuation orders was home to 1.78 million Palestinians, or 67% of Gaza’s population.

Yesterday, Israeli gunfire hit a food convoy waiting to enter northern Gaza, according to a UN official.

Additional reporting by Jane Moore, Press Association and AFP