The U.A.E. daily The National reported yesterday that Hamas and Israel were now in contact with Egyptian, Qatari and U.S. mediators to find a way to end the fighting, following a brief suspension of talks by Hamas after the killing of Saleh Al Arouri, the deputy Hamas political, in Beirut on Jan. 2. The Egyptian three-phase ceasefire plan is reported to be the basis of the talks.
News of the resumption of talks coincided with reports that Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani on Jan. 6 met relatives of at least six Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The families went to Qatar because the freeze in negotiations is “killing the hostages,” said Daniel Lifschitz, grandson of hostage Oded Lifschitz, reported the Times of Israel. An aunt of hostage Shiri Bibas said that the Qatari government is committed to the release of the hostages, and believes a temporary pause in fighting will accelerate the process of negotiations. “They were attentive, familiar with our stories and showed sympathy to us,” said Ruby Chen, whose son, Itay Chen, was abducted on Oct. 7. The Qataris view the hostage situation as a humanitarian crisis, and a top priority, said Chen, but “the gaps between the two sides are still large.”