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Israel evaluating Qatari claim that hostages received medicine

By Pesach Benson

JERUSALEM — Israel is assessing the credibility of Qatar’s claim on Tuesday, Feb. 20, that medicines have reached hostages in Gaza as an analyst told TPS that Doha cannot be trusted. Israeli skepticism has renewed calls for Israel to scale back humanitarian aid deliveries to the Strip.

Photos of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza at a protest camp in front of the Knesset building in Jerusalem on Jan. 14, 2024. (Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS)

“The Qatari announcement is the direct result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on receiving proof that the medicines have reached our hostages,” the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Tuesday night. “Israel will evaluate the credibility of the report and continue to act for the well-being of our hostages.”

Doha’s announcement came one month after the medicines were delivered to Gaza as part of an agreement in January brokered by Qatar and France which saw Israel expand the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into the Strip. The statement did not include proof or any explanation for the delay.

On February 9, Qatar informed Israel and France of Hamas’s assurances that the medicines were delivered to the hostages. However, Israel and France never received independent verification that the captives received their medicines.

Subsequent developments have raised doubts that the hostages ever received the promised medicine.

The families of two hostages rescued from Rafah told Israeli media their loved ones did not receive their medication.

More recently, Israeli soldiers found inside the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis dozens of unopened boxes of medication bearing the names of various Israeli captives.

‘We can’t trust Qatar’

Professor Eyal Zisser, vice rector of Tel Aviv University and chair in Contemporary History of the Middle East, told TPS that Israel cannot trust Qatar to mediate with Hamas.

“We can’t trust Qatar. We can’t trust it because it’s Qatar and it supports Hamas,” Zisser said. “And we can’t trust Qatar because the communication with Gaza is very difficult.”

Explaining why Israel continues to rely on Qatari mediation, Zisser said, “It’s the only channel we have.”

The delay between the delivery of the medicines and Qatar’s statement was because much of Gaza’s communication channels have broken down and the Israeli military cut off the northern and southern parts of the Strip.

“So it’s very hard for, let’s say [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar, within a deep bunker, to know what is going around in Gaza. It’s difficult for him to communicate with his friends outside of Gaza.”

Several of the captives are elderly, with pre-existing health conditions. Others were injured during their abduction, raising fears of further health complications.

International law explicitly stipulates the obligation of participants in armed conflict to allow impartial humanitarian bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross access to hostages. The ICRC was not a party to the January agreement. Israelis have heavily criticized the Red Cross for failing to use its influence to gain access to the captives.

Regarding the Red Cross, Zisser said he would like to see it be more critical of Hamas, but said, “The Red Cross can’t force Hamas to cooperate.”

The revelations have renewed calls within Israel to suspend humanitarian aid deliveries to the Strip.

Asked about restricting humanitarian aid deliveries to boost Israeli leverage, Zisser replied, “That has to do with American pressure and the American green light to continue the operations. So that’s the bargain. You want to continue fighting with no interference, that’s what America asks Israel to do.”

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.

Separately, the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel released a 39-page report on Wednesday, Feb. 21, stating that Hamas committed “brutal sexual assaults, carried out systematically and deliberately” on Oct. 7.

The report specified that sexual violence took place at the Nova Music Festival, in the communities near the Gaza border, on the army bases that were attacked, as well as continuing abuse of hostages still held in Gaza. “The actions targeted women, girls and men. In most cases, the victims were killed after, or even during the rape,” the report said.

The report was based on an analysis of public and confidential information such as the testimonies of eyewitnesses and first responders.



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