Humanitarian Deal Struck Between Israel And Hamas, But No Ceasefire In Sight

Israel and Hamas agree to deliver two planes full of medicine and other forms of humanitarian aid into Gaza. According to the Qatari Foreign Ministry, the medicine and aid was flown into Gaza on Wednesday, from where it should be delivered to the Gaza Strip. It is expected that the medicines will be used to treat over 130 hostages, which still remain in the hands of Hamas.

The deal was brokered by Qatar, which has been using Kissinger-style “shuttle diplomacy”, hosting indirect talks between the two sides in order to secure the release of all hostages held by Hamas and to reach a permanent ceasefire. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani met with the families of the hostages, as Israel intensified its strikes in Gaza. The agreement will allow the hostages to receive the necessary medical aid.

Many commentators described the deal as bringing hope, as it shows that both sides are still ready to negotiate and reach consensus on some of the issues. The deal was in the interest of both sides. Hamas needs the hostages alive, as it continues to use them as a bargaining tool in ceasefire negotiations. Israel, in turn, was always going to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza in order to save its people.

Despite this progress, the solution to the hostage situation remains elusive. The initial deal that saw 86 Israeli women and children and 24 foreigners freed under a temporary truce as well as over 240 Palestinian women and children freed from Israeli prisons, collapsed on December 2nd. No further progress was made on the hostage situation, with more than 130 hostages still being held in the arms of Hamas.

Further progress is extremely difficult, as Hamas considers many of the remaining hostages as combatants, as they include Israeli soldiers and military reservists. Back in October 2023, Hamas called for the release of over 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Its success in releasing 240 prisoners in December was met with overwhelming support from Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank. The militant group will use all the methods they can to force Israel to free as many Palestinians as possible.

The pressure is also mounting on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, as it has failed to rescue the hostages for over three months already. Over the weekend on the day that marked 100 days since the war in Gaza began, thousands rallied in Tel Aviv against Netanyahu’s leadership, including members of the hostages’ families. Recent polls show that only 15% of Israelis (the lowest number since the wake of the war) support the current Prime Minister and believe that he should keep the job after the war.

humanitarian-dealThe negotiations prove to be even more difficult against the background of escalating tensions in the whole region. The killing of Saleh al-Arouri, one of the founding commanders of Hamas’s military wing, frequently described as Hamas’s number two, terror attacks in Iran committed by ISIS, but still raising eyebrows in the Arab World, as well as the joint US-UK bombing campaign in Yemen against the Houthis – all of this adds fuel to the fire, as reaching a ceasefire agreement in the Middle East proves to be nearly impossible in the short-term.

Speaking at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres called for an end to hostilities and warned against the “spillover” of the conflict in the wider region, mentioning rocket and weapon exchanges on the Israel-Lebanon border, as well as the attacks of Houthi fighters on ships in the Red Sea. “It’s very important to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza, it’s very important to have a humanitarian ceasefire… but we need to find once and for all a total commitment of the international community for a two-State solution to exist in Israel and Palestine as the basis for a stable and peaceful Middle East for the benefit of everybody”, said Guterres.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups killed over 1,200 Israelis during their assault on October 7th and took over 240 as hostages, which has been described as the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s entire history. Israel retaliated by launching a large-scale air and ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza, which has killed more than 24,000 people and displaced around 2 million Palestinians since.

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