Qatar as a new mediator in the region
Israel and Hamas ceasefire without peace
Qatar, as a new mediator in the region, has brokered a four-day ceasefire and the release of 50 hostages as part of an agreement between Israel and Hamas. However, this agreement is fragile, and Netanyahu warns that this is not the end of the conflict. The four-day suspension of hostilities and the release of 50 hostages, including women and children, does not include the freedom of 150 Palestinians, including women and children, who are still imprisoned in Israeli jails. Therefore, after 47 days of war, the first temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has been achieved through Qatar’s mediation and with the support of the United States.
This is a turning point that had been anticipated with rumors and long hours of waiting in Gaza and Israel, and finally announced by the Qatari Foreign Ministry. According to this agreement, the ceasefire will last for four days and can be extended. The ceasefire came into effect at 10 a.m. on November 23. According to the agreement, the release of the first group of hostages has been planned, and it is possible that with the extension of the temporary cessation of military operations by Israel, a larger number of hostages will be freed. This agreement also facilitates the daily entry of hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid, medical supplies, and fuel into Gaza.
Ultimately, this agreement predicts that the movement of reconnaissance aircraft and drones will be halted for at least 6 hours a day in northern Gaza, while in the south, this restriction will be in place for the entire duration of the ceasefire. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said that this agreement is the result of tireless diplomacy and relentless efforts of the US Department of State and government. However, he warned that peace will not be established as long as Hamas continues to hold hostages in Gaza, even if it is a significant turning point.
Ceasefire Start Time
On Thursday, Hamas officials told Al Jazeera that the ceasefire will be implemented on November 23 at 10 AM local time. According to the same sources, most of the released hostages are women and children, but it is unclear whether there will be individuals with foreign or dual citizenship among them. As per the agreed ratio, the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners is in exchange for the freedom of every group of 50 Israeli hostages. Notably, there are no adult males on this list.
Currently, it is unclear whether the ceasefire on the northern front along the border with Lebanon will also have an impact. Hezbollah officials told Al Jazeera that they did not participate in the negotiations, but this movement is committed to stopping the war as long as Israel respects the agreement and remains committed.
These sources indicated that Hezbollah will cease targeting Israeli territories from southern Lebanon if Israeli occupying forces adhere to the temporary ceasefire. They added that otherwise, Israel will receive a harsh response from us. Meanwhile, on November 22, during the waiting hours for the implementation of the agreement, Israeli armed forces raided a residential building in Khan Yunis in the heart of the Gaza Strip, resulting in the death of 17 people.
The agreement is a factor in the rift among right-wing factions in the cabinet.
After a nearly seven-hour session, the Israeli military cabinet approved this agreement, in which the voice of the far-right was raised. Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, who was one of the staunch opponents of this agreement, described it as a disaster in every sense.
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the joining of Benny Gantz, was able to gather the necessary votes to approve the agreement and it is worth mentioning that the increasing pressure from the families of the hostages, who openly accused the government of treating their loved ones as a secondary matter, did not have any effect on the approval of this agreement.
In a press conference, Netanyahu assured that Israel will continue its fight against Hamas after the end of the ceasefire in order to return all the kidnapped individuals, eliminate Hamas, and ensure that there is no longer any threat from Gaza against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Benny Gantz are authorized to decide on the timing of the ceasefire, provided that it is not extended for more than ten days.
A turning point, not an end
If this agreement is seen as the most important political turning point since the beginning of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, it does not mean the end of the war. In fact, hostilities can resume with even greater intensity once both sides have had time to regroup. However, there is hope that the pause in the fighting will encourage mediators and the parties involved to strive for a permanent cessation of violence.
In recent weeks, the pressure on Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet from the United States has increased due to concerns from the American people and Democratic supporters about the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza.
According to Simon Tisdall in The Guardian, an agreement allows Biden to neutralize criticism of US policies from southern countries and reduce differences with European allies, while providing an excuse for America’s enemies. During the virtual BRICS summit on Thursday, leaders of emerging countries once again emphasized the need for an immediate ceasefire and condemned Israel’s disproportionate response to Gaza.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his speech, emphasized for the first time since the start of the conflict that the right to the existence of Palestine and the right of return for the Palestinian people have been ignored for years. The Chinese leader also reminded the need for an international peace conference to end the war and reiterated that in the Middle East, there will be no peace and sustainable security without a fair solution to the Palestinian issue, a speech that was widely covered by Arab media worldwide.
Qatar uses an intricate network of political relationships as a mediator between Hamas and Israel. Hamas and its leadership in Doha, Qatar, receive arms and training from Iran, which also complicates the issue of their relationship with Israel, despite Qatar not having official diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. Prior to the Abraham Accords, Qatar had political ties with Israel, as Israeli businesses had an office in Doha and Qatar had provided financial aid to Gaza Strip for years.
Now, due to concerns about the escalation of war in the Middle East, Qatar is mediating not only to gain international credibility but mainly to contain the conflict. Qatar is well aware that the spread of the conflict in the region will also harm the economies of Gulf countries. However, in this delicate diplomatic balancing act, Qatar knows that the most challenging phase will begin when all hostages are freed, as it will have to define its relationship with Hamas after the October 7th attack.
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