Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks ‘not really promising’, Qatar PM says

Talks between Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza were “not really very promising” in recent days, the prime minister of Qatar, a key mediator for the negotiations, said on Saturday.

“I believe that we can see a deal happening very soon,” Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said at the Munich Security Conference.

“Yet the pattern in the last few days is not really very promising. We will always remain optimistic, we will always remain pushing,” he added, speaking in English.

“Time is not in our favour”, he said, casting forward to beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on March 10.

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Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani attends a panel discussion in Munich, Germany on Saturday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Al-Thani did not disclose many details about the highly sensitive talks.

But he did say that if an agreement were found on the “humanitarian side of the agreement”, there would be a deal on the “numbers” for an exchange of hostages and prisoners.

A truce between Hamas and Israel should not however depend on a deal to release hostages held by Hamas, Al-Thani said.

“This is the dilemma that we’ve been in and unfortunately that’s been misused by a lot of countries – that in order to get a ceasefire, it’s conditional to have the hostage deal. It shouldn’t be conditioned,” he said.

Hamas says Israeli hostages in Gaza have suffered many losses

Failure to reach a deal could lead to a wider escalation in the region, he warned.

Israel has faced growing international pressure to agree a ceasefire with Hamas, as it prepares an incursion into the crowded southern city of Rafah in Gaza.

Fears have grown for some 1.4 million Palestinians who have taken refuge in the city, close to the border with Egypt.

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Palestinian children stand behind a fence in Rafah on Saturday near the Kerem Shalom border crossing where trucks loaded with international aid enter Gaza. Photo: dpa

The Gaza war began with Hamas’s October 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also took about 250 people hostage, 130 of whom are still in Gaza, including 30 who are presumed dead, according to Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory assault on Gaza has killed at least 28,858 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

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