Israel and Hamas agree to hostage exchange

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a four-day ceasefire and a hostage exchange, mediated by Qatar and coordinated with the United States.

The deal, which is still under discussion, would involve the release of about 50 hostages, mostly women and children, held by Hamas in Gaza, in exchange for 150 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

This agreement would also allow the entry of humanitarian aid into the besieged enclave, where more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured by Israeli airstrikes and ground operations since October 7, 2023.

The deal is seen as a breakthrough in the ongoing conflict, which has been marked by violence, suffering, and diplomatic deadlock.

However, the deal faces many challenges and uncertainties, as both sides have different expectations and demands, and the situation on the ground remains volatile and tense.

The agreement is expected to be finalized and implemented in the coming days, if both parties adhere to the terms and conditions.

Qatar mediations in the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas

Qatar has mediated previous ceasefires between Israel and Hamas in 2012, 2014, and 2021, using its diplomatic and financial leverage to broker deals that ended hostilities and eased the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Qatar has maintained close ties with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, as well as with Israel and the United States, making it a unique and influential actor in the region. Qatar has also provided billions of dollars in aid to Gaza over the years, helping to rebuild infrastructure, pay salaries, and deliver fuel and electricity. Qatar’s mediation efforts have been praised by some as constructive and pragmatic, but criticized by others as biased and counterproductive.

Some of the main features of Qatar’s mediation role in previous ceasefires are:

  • In 2012, Qatar helped to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas after eight days of fighting that killed more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis. Qatar’s then-emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, had visited Gaza a month earlier, becoming the first head of state to do so since Hamas took power in 2007. Qatar also pledged $400 million in aid to Gaza during the visit. The 2012 ceasefire was brokered by Egypt, with Qatar and Turkey playing supportive roles.
  • In 2014, Qatar played a more prominent role in mediating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after a 50-day war that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis. Qatar hosted several rounds of talks between Hamas and Palestinian factions, as well as representatives from the US, the UN, and Turkey. Qatar also coordinated with Egypt, which acted as the main mediator and the only country that had direct contacts with both Israel and Hamas. The 2014 ceasefire was announced after Qatar’s foreign minister shuttled between Cairo and Doha to finalize the deal. Qatar also pledged $1 billion in aid to Gaza after the war.
  • In 2021, Qatar was again involved in mediating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after 11 days of fighting that killed more than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Qatar worked closely with Egypt, which led the mediation efforts, as well as with the US, the UN, and Turkey. Qatar’s foreign minister spoke to Hamas’ political leader several times during the escalation, and also communicated with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other regional and international officials. Qatar also announced $500 million in aid to Gaza after the ceasefire.

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