Medicine and aid reach Gaza in rare deal between Israel and Hamas

Medicine and aid reach Gaza in rare deal between Israel and Hamas

A breakthrough for hostages and civilians

A shipment of medicine and humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, as part of a rare agreement between Israel and Hamas that was mediated by France and Qatar. The deal marked the first of its kind since a weeklong cease-fire in November, which ended a devastating war that killed more than 24,000 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis.

The agreement was aimed at providing relief to some of the roughly 100 hostages who remain in captivity in Gaza, as well as to the 2.3 million Palestinians who live under a crippling blockade and face severe shortages of food, water, electricity and medical supplies. The deal could also pave the way for further negotiations to end the conflict and secure the release of the hostages.

How the deal was reached

The deal was announced on Tuesday by Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Majed al-Ansari, who said that Qatar, along with its regional and international partners, had been working on mediation efforts at the political and humanitarian levels. He said that the deal involved the delivery of medicine for Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for medicine and aid for Palestinian civilians.

Medicine and aid reach Gaza in rare deal between Israel and Hamas

The medicine left Doha on Wednesday and headed to Egypt before being transported to Gaza, the ministry said. A senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, said that the agreement was dependent on there being enough medicine for Palestinians in Gaza in addition to the hostages. He said that for every box of medicine given to the hostages, Palestinians in Gaza must receive 1,000 boxes.

The deal also followed calls by relatives of the hostages for medicine to reach their loved ones, who have been suffering from chronic illnesses and harsh captivity conditions. According to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an advocacy group for the victims’ families, at least a third of the hostages have chronic diseases and require medications, while others suffer from mental and physical torture.

The ongoing war and its toll

The deal came 100 days into the conflict, which began on October 7, when Hamas fighters attacked Israel’s border defenses and stormed through several communities, killing hundreds of people, mostly civilians, and capturing around 250. Israel believes 132 hostages are still being held in the strip, 105 of whom are alive.

Israel has vowed to dismantle Hamas and prevent it from ever repeating such an attack, launching one of the deadliest military campaigns in recent history. More than 85% of Gaza’s population has fled their homes, and the United Nations says a quarter of the people are starving. Israel has also faced rocket fire from Gaza and other militant groups, as well as protests and riots from Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel and Hamas have rejected several attempts to broker a permanent cease-fire, insisting on their own conditions. Hamas has said it will not release any more hostages until there is a lasting truce, while Israel has said it will not stop its military operations until it secures the return of the hostages and restores its deterrence.

The prospects for peace

The deal on Wednesday was seen as a rare sign of hope amid the ongoing violence and suffering. It was welcomed by the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and other countries, who urged both sides to build on the momentum and work towards a lasting solution.

The deal was also praised by some of the hostages’ families, who expressed relief and gratitude for the efforts of France, Qatar and other mediators. However, they also stressed that the deal was not enough, and that they would not rest until their loved ones were freed.

The deal also raised questions about the role of Egypt, which has traditionally been the main mediator between Israel and Hamas, but has been sidelined in recent months by Qatar and other actors. Egypt has maintained a close alliance with Israel and a hostile stance towards Hamas, which it accuses of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, its main domestic rival.

Some analysts have suggested that the deal could signal a shift in the regional dynamics, as Qatar and other countries seek to assert their influence and interests in the Middle East. They have also speculated that the deal could create an opening for dialogue and cooperation between Israel and Hamas, as well as between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which has been estranged from the militant group since 2007.

However, others have cautioned that the deal was fragile and limited, and that it did not address the root causes of the conflict or the long-term aspirations of the parties. They have warned that the deal could collapse at any moment, and that the war could resume with even more intensity and bloodshed.

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