Qatar 're-evaluating' mediator role in Israel-Gaza ceasefire talks

Displaced Palestinians trying to walk back from central Gaza Strip to northern Gaza Strip. Credit: AP

Qatar’s prime minister said that the country is re-evaluating its role as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.

Qatar has been a key intermediary throughout the war in Gaza.

It, along with the US and Egypt, was instrumental in helping negotiate a brief halt to the fighting in November that led to the release of dozens of hostages.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdurrahman Al Thani said there had been an “abuse” of the Gulf state's mediation for “narrow political interests”.

He did not name one side in his remarks. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticised Qatar and recently threatened to shutter local operations of Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Top Hamas leaders live in exile in Qatar, which is seen as one of the only parties with influence over the militant group.

Al Thani said there were “limits” to the role of mediator and “to the ability to which we can contribute to these negotiations in a constructive manner”.

Mediators have been trying to push Hamas and Israel toward a ceasefire deal, but the sides remain far apart on key terms.

The conflict began when Hamas gunmen carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7. Some 1,200 people were killed, mainly civilians and 253 others were taken back to Gaza as hostages.

Since then, more than 33,800 people have been killed in Gaza, the majority of whom are women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

A week-long ceasefire in November saw 105 hostages returned for some 240 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails.

Israel believes that 133 hostages are still being held in Gaza, including four taken captive before the war - but that more than 30 of them are dead.

The move from Qatar to openly question its role as a mediator comes as both China and Indonesia call for an immediate ceasefire, condemning the humanitarian costs of Israel's ongoing war against Hamas.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi , left, shakes hands with Indonesia President Joko Widodo during a meeting at the palace in Indonesia. Credit: AP

Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi told reporters that the two countries share the same view about the importance of a ceasefire and of resolving the Palestinian problem through a two-state solution.

“I am sure that China would use its influence to prevent escalation,” Marsudi said, adding that China and Indonesia "would also fully support Palestine’s membership in the UN.”

American officials have argued that the ceasefire and hostage releases are linked, while Russia, China and many other council members favored unconditional calls for a ceasefire.

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