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Qatar's emir warns of 'race against time' for Gaza hostages

Qatar's emir warns of 'race against time' for release of Gaza hostages
3 min read
28 February, 2024
The Emir of Qatar spoke of a "race against time" to reach a deal on a truce in Gaza, despite US confidence in reaching a deal by Monday.
The Emir of Qatar is on a state visit to France to discuss a Gaza ceasefire with Western partners (Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

The emir of Qatar spoke on Tuesday of "a race against time" to secure the release of captives and stop the killing of civilians, as part of the diplomatic push for a ceasefire in Israel's war on Gaza.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was speaking on his first state visit to France at a dinner in his honour with French President Emmanuel Macron, while negotiations on Gaza were simultaneously taking place in Doha. 

Qatar plays a key role in current talks to secure a ceasefire and hostage release deal in Gaza.

The emir noted that France and Qatar were working intensely on Gaza diplomacy, but also spoke soberingly about the mounting human losses.

“The world sees a genocide of the Palestinian people. Hunger, forced displacement, and savage bombardments are used as weapons. And the international community still hasn't managed to adopt a unified position to end the war in Gaza and provide the strict minimum of protection for children, women and civilians," the Qatari leader said.

"We are in a race against time to bring the hostages back to their families and at the same time we must work to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

The emir's Paris visit comes as negotiators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar have been working to broker a ceasefire deal, which will free dozens of captives held in Gaza in return for the release of Palestinian detainees from Israeli prisons, as well as a six-week halt in the fighting.

Contrasting the Qatari leader's statement, United States diplomats expressed growing optimism over the past few days on the state of negotiations.

"My hope is that by next Monday we'll have a ceasefire," US President Joe Biden told reporters on Monday.

The comments were made as Biden ate an ice cream, a scene criticised by some observers as tactless and even offensive considering that famine is claiming lives in Gaza.

Biden also said that Israel would be willing to pause its war on Hamas in Gaza during the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadan if a deal was reached to release some of the hostages.

But Israeli officials quickly disavowed Biden’s comments, saying they came as a surprise. Hamas also played down any sense of progress, with one of its officials saying the group wouldn’t soften its demands.

The start of Ramadan, which is expected to be around March 10, is seen as an unofficial deadline for a ceasefire. The month is a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.

Macron said on X, that France and Qatar in a joint operation chartered humanitarian and medical aid on Tuesday for the people of Gaza.

Macron said "75 tons of freight, 10 ambulances, food rations, 300 family tents" arrived in el-Arish airport in Egypt, near the Rafah crossing to Gaza.

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France and Qatar also mediated a deal in January for the shipment of medicine for dozens of captives held by Hamas. Qatar authorities said last week that Hamas had started delivering the medication.

On Wednesday, the prime ministers of Qatar and France will chair an economic forum to boost investments in sectors such as artificial intelligence, health, green technologies, transport and tourism.