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US Says Bid To Expel Hamas Leadership From Qatar Is Gaining Momentum As Hopes Of Deal Fade

Palestinians react after Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt and Qatar, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 6, 2024. in this screengrab taken from video. (Reuters TV via REUTERS)

The US is putting pressure on Qatar to expel Hamas’s leaders if they do not agree to dilute the terms of the proposed ceasefire deal. The Gulf state has been hosting Hamas’s top leadership since 2012. According to US officials speaking off the record, Qatar could close the political office of Hamas as part of a broader review of its role as a mediator in the war between Israel and the Islamist group.

“If Qatar isn’t going to be mediating, they won’t see a point in keeping the political office. So that is a part of the reassessment,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official did not know if Hamas would be asked to leave Doha if the Qatari government did decide to close the group’s office. However, he did say Qatar’s own review of its role would be influenced by how Israel and Hamas act during the ongoing negotiations.

Hamas said on Monday in a statement that it had agreed to a ceasefire following proposals between the Qatari prime minister and the Egyptian intelligence minister. The deal Hamas has agreed to comprises of three phases with 42 days in between each phase. The first stage is that Israel “temporarily stop military operations” and retreat from the enclave following which Hamas releases 33 Israeli hostages in return for Israel releasing Palestinians from Israeli jails. Israel partially withdraws troops from Gaza and allows free movement of Palestinians from south to north Gaza.

The second phase involves the withdrawal of most Israeli troops from Gaza in return for the release of some Israeli reservists and soldiers. The third phase would be the exchange of bodies on both sides and the beginning of the reconstruction of Gaza which will be overseen by Qatar, Egypt and the UN.

Israel said the terms of a ceasefire proposal Hamas accepted on Monday remained “far from” meeting its demands and warned its military operations in Rafah would continue, even as it sent negotiators to talk to mediators.

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Israel’s ‘Mission Rafah’ has just begun as Prime Minister Netanyahu has insisted that he needs to wipe out the remaining four battalions in the region including the Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar who may be hiding there. Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi stated on local television that Sinwar was living on “borrowed time.”

Though the US is opposed to Israel’s operation in Rafah it is also putting pressure on Qatar to push out the Hamas leadership in the hope the Islamic group will dilute its demands.

The Gulf country has however claimed that it was the US who insisted that Doha host the Hamas leadership. In a report in Der Spiegel Qatari officials claimed that then US president Barack Obama had personally requested the Qatar Emir to take the Hams leaders in the country. The reasons for this were simple the report said. Qatar is considered a “major non-Nato ally” and Washington believed that backchannel talks would be much easier with the Hamas leadership.                   

(With reports from agencies)