Senior official: Qatari silence on Arouri assassination good omen for hostage talks

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Investigators stand in an apartment building where an alleged Israeli strike killed top Hamas terror chief Saleh Arouri, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, January 3, 2024. (AP/Hussein Malla)
Investigators stand in an apartment building where an alleged Israeli strike killed top Hamas terror chief Saleh Arouri, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, January 3, 2024. (AP/Hussein Malla)

A senior Israeli official says that the fact that Qatar did not respond publicly to the strike on Hamas leader Saleh Al-Arouri last night is a positive sign for the continuation of talks on the release of more hostages from Gaza.

“If they don’t announce anything, that is ultimately something optimistic,” says the official.

Israel has remained mum on responsibility for the strike despite widespread speculation that it was behind the killing of the top official.

The official says a high-stakes meeting in which the National Security Council and the Strategic Affairs Ministry were slated to present recommendations for the day after the war against Hamas, scheduled for yesterday, was delayed in the wake of the strike on Arouri in Beirut.

They will be presented Thursday evening instead, and the details of the recommendations will be made public.

Officials are expected to discuss the postwar role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East after the war.

The official offers rare praise for oft-pilloried UNRWA.

“At the moment, we don’t see another international player in Gaza that knows how to transport trucks to shelter areas,” the official says. “For the first time in its history perhaps, UNRWA is doing something that serves the humanitarian needs of Gaza’s residents. They are receiving food, water, and medicine from activities UNRWA is part of.”

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