Qatar PM upbeat on hostages’ release breakthrough as Gaza war crisis worsens

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Qatar PM upbeat on hostages' release breakthrough as Gaza war crisis worsens

Qatar’s prime minister said on Wednesday there was some progress on hostage negotiations after Hamas that has abducted over 200 hostages during its October 7 attack in southern Israel.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, who is also the minister of foreign affairs, said at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart that he hoped there would be breakthroughs on hostage releases “soon”.

Qatar has had an open dialogue with both Israel and Hamas, which has brought about the release of four hostages held by Hamas, including two Israeli women on Monday.

The Gulf state, in coordination with the US, is leading mediation talks with Hamas and Israeli officials over the hostages’ release as Israel prepares a ground assault on the enclave.

Speaking in Doha, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said an Israeli ground operation into Gaza would turn the fighting there into a massacre.

Fidan said that those supporting Israel’s actions under the pretence of solidarity were “accomplices to its crimes”.

More than 5,700 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, have been martyred across the Gaza Strip in Israeli strikes, according to Gaza health officials.

The ministry put Tuesday’s toll at more than 700 people, with the UN saying it was the highest reported in a single day since the war began.

Overnight, at least 80 people were martyred, the Hamas government said on Wednesday.

The Israeli military has bombed entire neighbourhoods in the blockaded territory in response to unprecedented Hamas attacks inside Israel on October 7 that killed at least 1,400 people.

UN chief alarmed over ‘violations’ of law
The statement by the Qatari PM came after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lashed out at Israel for violating international humanitarian law as a senior doctor in the besieged territory said that Israel of using new “deadly weapons” against the civilians in Gaza.

Opening an important UNSC session, Guterres said there was no excuse for the “appalling” violence by Hamas on October 7 but also warned against “collective punishment” of the Palestinians.

“I am deeply concerned about the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza. Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law,” Guterres said, without explicitly naming Israel.

Guterres also said that the Hamas attacks “did not happen in a vacuum” as the Palestinians have been “subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation”.

The UN chief urged an immediate ceasefire as Israel pounds the Palestinian territory in response to Hamas attacks, with the crisis deeply dividing the Security Council.

Smoke is rising after an Israeli strike on Gaza seen from a viewpoint in Southern Israel October 24, 2023. — Reuters
Smoke is rising after an Israeli strike on Gaza seen from a viewpoint in Southern Israel October 24, 2023. — Reuters
Israel voiced anger over the UN chief´s plea before a high-level session of the Security Council, where the Palestinian foreign minister in turn denounced what he described as inaction in the conflict that has killed thousands on both sides, mostly civilians.

His remarks infuriated Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen who, pointing his finger at Guterres and raising his voice, recounted graphic accounts of civilians including young children killed in the deadliest single attack in Israeli history.

“Mr Secretary-General, in what world do you live?” Cohen said.

Rejecting tying the violence to the occupation, Cohen said Israel gave Gaza to the Palestinians “to the last millimeter” with its withdrawal in 2005.

Israel shortly afterward imposed a blockade of the impoverished territory, in place ever since, after Hamas took power, and it still occupies the West Bank.

Israel´s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, called on Guterres to resign — writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the UN chief has “expressed an understanding for terrorism and murder”.

Israel using ‘new deadly weapons’
Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the director general of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, says that he has never before seen the types of wounds and injuries occurring in the current war.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abu Salmiya said what he described as the new types of injuries were likely a result of Israel using “new deadly weapons” against the people of Gaza.

‘Hospitals running out of fuel’
Doctors in Gaza say patients arriving at hospitals are showing signs of disease caused by overcrowding and poor sanitation after more than 1.4 million people fled their homes for temporary shelters under Israel’s heaviest-ever bombardment.

All hospitals say they are running out of fuel to power their electricity generators, leaving them increasingly unable to treat the injured and ill. More than 40 medical centres have halted operations, a health ministry spokesman said.

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, warned in a post on messaging platform X that it would halt operations in Gaza on Wednesday night because of the lack of fuel.

However, the Israeli military reaffirmed it would bar the entry of fuel to prevent Hamas from seizing it.

’16 martyred in Israeli air strikes’
At least 16 people were martyred and several others injured following the latest Israeli air strikes across Gaza early on Wednesday.

According to the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, the Israeli raids hit residential areas in Jabalia and Tal al-Hawa in the north, al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza and Khan Younis in the south, according to Al Jazeera.

Guterres, who personally travelled to the crossing between Egypt and Gaza in a push to let in assistance, welcomed the entry of three aid convoys so far through the Rafah crossing.

Emergency services extinguish a fire as Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, October 24, 2023. — Reuters
Emergency services extinguish a fire as Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a house, in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, October 24, 2023. — Reuters
But Guterres said it was “a drop of aid in an ocean of need,” as the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned it would be forced to stop working Wednesday due to lack of fuel.

“To ease epic suffering, make the delivery of aid easier and safer, and facilitate the release of hostages, I reiterate my appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

Israel, backed by the United States, has rejected calls to halt the offensive, saying it would only allow Hamas to regroup.

Jordan Queen slams West double standards
Queen Rania of Jordan has accused Western leaders of a “glaring double standard” for failing to condemn the deaths of civilians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza, as Israel’s war on Hamas threatens to destabilise relations between US and Arab leaders.

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview, Rania said, “The people all around the Middle East, including in Jordan, we are just shocked and disappointed by the world’s reaction to this catastrophe that is unfolding. In the last couple of weeks, we have seen a glaring double standard in the world.”

People hold Palestinian flags as Jordanians gather during a protest in support of Palestinians in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, near the Israeli embassy, in Amman, Jordan on October 24, 2023. — Reuters
People hold Palestinian flags as Jordanians gather during a protest in support of Palestinians in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, near the Israeli embassy, in Amman, Jordan on October 24, 2023. — Reuters
“When October 7 happened, the world immediately and unequivocally stood by Israel and its right to defend itself and condemned the attack that happened … but what we’re seeing in the last couple of weeks, we’re seeing silence in the world,” she told CNN.

The United States last week vetoed a draft resolution on the crisis, saying it did not sufficiently support Israel´s right to respond to Hamas.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked the Security Council to back a new US-led resolution that “incorporates substantive feedback.”

The draft, seen by AFP, would defend the “inherent right of all states” to self-defense while calling for compliance with international law. It would back “humanitarian pauses” to let in aid but not a full ceasefire.

Veto-wielding Russia — accustomed to being on the receiving end at the Security Council over its invasion of Ukraine — quickly said it would oppose the US draft, which also came under criticism from US regional ally Egypt.

600,000 IDP sheltering in 150 UNRWA facilities
Nearly 600,000 internally displaced people are sheltering in 150 facilities of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, while at least 40 UNRWA installations have been impacted, the UN agency posted on Wednesday on the social media platform X.

“Our shelters are four times over their capacities – many people are sleeping in the streets as current facilities are overwhelmed,” the agency added.