A man holds a cat as he stands outside a tent at a make-shift camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah.—AFP
A man holds a cat as he stands outside a tent at a make-shift camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah.—AFP

WASHINGTON: A framework for a halt in fighting in Gaza and the release of prisoners is to be relayed to Hamas, Qatar’s prime minister said on Monday following meetings with US, Israeli and Egyptian officials.

Qatar, along with Egypt and the United States, has led mediation efforts since October 7.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, speaking in Washington at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank, said “good progress” had been made during the talks in Paris.

The Qatari premier confirmed the meetings with CIA chief Bill Burns and top Israeli and Egyptian security officials had resulted in a framework for a phased truce that would see women and children prisoners released first, with aid also entering the besieged Gaza Strip.

The parties were “hoping to relay this proposal to Hamas and to get them to a place where they engage positively and constructively in the process”, he said.

Sheikh Mohammed added that Hamas had made “a clear demand” for a “permanent ceasefire ahead of the negotiations”.

The current proposal, the prime minister said, “might lead to a ceasefire permanently in the future”.

Previously, Qatar mediated a one-week break in fighting that began in November and led to the release of scores of Israeli and foreign prisoners, as well as aid entering the besieged Palestinian territory.The wealthy Gulf emirate of Qatar, which hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East, also hosts Hamas’s political office and is the main residence of the self-exiled leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The Qatari premier warned an attack blamed on Iran-backed fighters that killed three US troops in Jordan could escalate regional tensions.

“We’ve been warning from day one that this war has a potential of expanding and spill over on the region,” he said.

“I hope that nothing would undermine the efforts that we are doing or jeopardise the process, yet it will definitely have an impact.”

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2024

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