Photo by Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS on 17 December, 2023

Qatar Uses Israeli Hostages to Extend Lifeline to Hamas

Public By Baruch Yedid/TPS • 17 December, 2023

Jerusalem, 17 December, 2023 (TPS) -- While the US pressures Qatar to expel Hamas leaders from its territory, Doha is instead trying to leverage its mediation to secure the terror groups’ future in the Gulf state.

“Qatar is under very heavy pressure from the United States, which is demanding that it change direction vis-à-vis Hamas and is already about to impose a series of heavy sanctions on Hamas,” an Arab source told the Tazpit Press Service.

“The chances are very high that Qatar will soon ask Ismail Haniyeh and the leadership team to leave the country, but in the meantime it is trying to soften the pressure by releasing hostages.”

According to a series of Arab media reports, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is pressing Doha to remove Hamas from Qatari soil, arguing that the existing relationship cannot continue. However, Qatar is trying to soften Washington’s pressure by promoting additional hostage release deals and touting its ability to moderate Hamas.

Specifically, the Qataris have leaned on the terror group to issue some moderating statements and suggested that Hamas be integrated into the Palestine Liberation Organization.

On December 13, Hamas supreme leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Qatar, said he was open to talks to end the war and “putting the Palestinian house in order both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

The following day, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk broached the subject of recognizing Israel in an interview with Al-Monitor.

“You should follow the official stance. The official stance is that the PLO has recognized the state of Israel,” Marzouk was quoted saying.

However, divisions within Gaza may ultimately short-circuit Qatar’s plans. Sources told TPS that while Haniyeh is inclined to support additional hostage release deals, Yahya Sinwar, who ultimately controls the fate of the hostages, refuses to cooperate.

“Sinwar acts as the one most loyal to the Iranian camp in recent times and defies Qatar,” an Arab source explained to TPS.

TPS has also learned that Arab countries are continuing to promote a plan for post-war Gaza, one of whose guiding principles is “neither Abbas nor Hamas.”

At least 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. The number of men, women, children, soldiers and foreigners held captive in Gaza by Hamas is now believed to be 132. Other people remain unaccounted for as Israeli authorities continue to identify bodies and search for human remains.