Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Rahman al-Thani told the Financial Times on Monday that Hamas must find dozens of hostages held by other Palestinian Islamist groups in order to extend the truce.
In an interview with the British daily, he clarified that the extension of the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas depends on the willingness of the Palestinian Islamist group to locate dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza by civilians and gangs, he said. More than 40 other women and children are being held captive in Gaza, and are not believed to be held by Hamas, according to the Qatari prime minister.
A four-day pause in the Gulf state-brokered war, which began Friday, is set to end Monday. The Islamist group agreed to release 50 women and children. In return, Israel agreed to increase aid to the besieged Gaza Strip and to release 150 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
Al-Thani stressed that the Jewish state had provided Qatar with a list of more than 90 women and children seized during the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, which left around 1,200 dead according to Israeli officials. Around 240 hostages were captured and returned to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Other captives include Israeli soldiers and elderly civilians.
According to the Qatari Prime Minister, Hamas informed him that its fighters had not captured civilians, blaming other militant groups and Palestinians who had also breached Israeli security barriers around Gaza, the Oct. 7.
Hamas said in a statement on Sunday that it was seeking to extend the truce by increasing the number of "people released from prison." The Qatari official said Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Islamist faction in Gaza, was coordinating its actions with Hamas for the release of the hostages.
For an end to the conflict
On another level, the Qatari Prime Minister insisted on the need for the war between Israel and Hamas "to stop in order to find a solution to address Israel's concerns."
Since the hostage agreement came into force on Friday, Hamas has released 39 women and children and 18 foreigners. Israel has released 117 Palestinian women and children from its prisons. Qatar, which hosts the Hamas political office in Doha, has sent officials to Israel and Gaza to coordinate the parties' actions.
The Qatari prime minister, who is also foreign minister, said that if a prolonged cease-fire is not achieved, the war between Israel and Hamas risks spreading and destabilizing "the 'entire region." He criticized Western powers for not putting more pressure on the Jewish state to end the fighting, warning that Israel's bombing and siege of Gaza threatened to radicalize a generation of young Arabs.
Al-Thani also noted that Israel's stated goal of destroying Hamas and eradicating it from Gaza was not realistic.
“Ultimately, the destruction of Hamas through the continuation of this war will never happen. This will only fuel the narrative of extremism and radicalization,” he argued, emphasizing the need to “find a political solution that guarantees the security of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people.”
He stressed in this context that Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank should have a "political horizon" for a viable state of their own, that they should be able to choose their own leaders and that a single government should administer both territories. “Apart from that, there will be no solution,” he concluded.
This article originally appeared in French on L'Orient-Le Jour.