Hamas defends Qatar, says Doha advancing hostage talks

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Hamas comes to Qatar’s defense after Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich accused the country of not being a fair interlocutor and working for the terror group’s interests.

In a statement issued by Hamas senior figure Taher Nunu, the terror group denounces the “targeting of the brotherly State of Qatar.”

It asserts the Gulf monarchy has “played an active political role to stop the aggression on our people and advance the exchange file,” referring to talks for the release of Israeli hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners.

He says Smotrich’s words are reflective of Israel’s position, which he claims is aimed at blocking a possible agreement to free its citizens who were kidnapped from their homes.

Smotrich said earlier today that “Qatar is the biggest obstacle for returning the hostages” since it has “a clear interest in preserving Hamas,” and that it “encourages terrorism, finances terrorism, pushes terror and is playing a double game.”

The comments came in response to Qatar criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been caught on tape accusing the Gulf state of harming hostage talks.

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