Medicines for hostages in Qatari-French deal arrive in Egypt en route to Gaza

Hamas says Gazans to receive 1,000 times as many boxes of medication, plus humanitarian aid, with Israel not inspecting packages; Netanyahu distances himself from details of deal

A woman holds a placard during a 'Stand With Israel' rally to mark 100 days since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack in southern Israel, in London, January 14, 2024. (Frank Augstein/AP)
A woman holds a placard during a 'Stand With Israel' rally to mark 100 days since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack in southern Israel, in London, January 14, 2024. (Frank Augstein/AP)

A shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Hamas was en route to Gaza on Wednesday, after France and Qatar mediated the first agreement between Israel and the terror group since a weeklong ceasefire in November.

After it was reported that Israel agreed to not inspect the contents of a much larger delivery of medicines for Gazans that is part of the deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the particulars, saying it was the responsibility of the military, a claim the Israel Defense Forces denied.

The medicines arrived in Egypt and were on the way to the border as of Wednesday afternoon. Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said that for every box provided for the hostages, 1,000 boxes would be sent in for Palestinians. The deal also includes the delivery of humanitarian aid to residents of the Hamas-run battered coastal enclave.

In a post on X, Abu Marzouk said Israeli authorities would not be given an opportunity to inspect the shipments. He also said Hamas insisted that Qatar provide the medications and not France because of the European country’s support for Israel.

Abu Marzouk said the International Committee of the Red Cross would deliver all the medicines, including the ones destined for the hostages, to hospitals serving all parts of Gaza.

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in October, Israel has maintained a tight control on deliveries to Gaza in effort to prevent Hamas receiving supplies that could benefit its military apparatus.

After Israeli media outlets reported Abu Marzouk’s remarks, Netanyahu denied that he had given the go-ahead to exempt the shipment of medications for hostages and Gaza civilians from security checks before it enters Gaza.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, at a meeting with the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, shows a box of the kind of medications he wants delivered to hostages still held in Gaza, December 14, 2023 (Screenshot: GPO)

“The prime minister instructed that the medicines be sent to the hostages but did not deal at all with the security procedures that are set by the IDF and security officials,” his office said in a statement.

However, unnamed sources in the IDF swiftly told Channel 12 that the military knew nothing about the arrangements and that it only learned that the packages would not be inspected from Abu Marzouk’s remarks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting at Hakirya base in Tel Aviv on January 7, 2024. (Yariv Katz/POOL/Flash90)

The agreement came more than 100 days into a conflict that shows no sign of ending. Palestinian terrorists are still putting up resistance across Gaza in the face of Israel’s military campaign. Some 85 percent of the narrow coastal territory’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes. The United Nations says a quarter of the population is starving; Israel denies that this is the case.

Israel has vowed to dismantle Hamas’s military and governing abilities to ensure the group can never repeat an attack like the one on October 7 that started the war, when terrorists burst through Israel’s border defenses and stormed through  communities near the border, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians slaughtered amid brutal atrocities, and abducting around 240 of all ages.

Israel’s military campaign is also aimed at freeing the more than 100 hostages still held inside Gaza, after Hamas in late November released most of the women and children held captive in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Amid calls from the public and hostages’ families to reach a deal for their freedom, officials insist only military pressure will bring about the release of more captives. The deaths of two more hostages were confirmed Tuesday, with Hamas saying they were killed in Israeli airstrikes, a claim the IDF rejected as a lie.

Those remaining in captivity in Gaza include several older men and others who require medication for chronic illness.

Hamas has said it will not release any more hostages until there is a permanent ceasefire, something Israel and the United States, its top ally, have ruled out.

An aid truck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing waits to cross into the southern Gaza Strip on December 6, 2023. (AFP)

France said it took months to organize the shipment of the medicines. Qatar, which has long served as a mediator with Hamas, helped broker the deal, which will provide three months’ worth of medication for chronic illnesses for 45 of the hostages as well as other medicine and vitamins.

An Egyptian official confirmed the shipment had arrived at the el-Arish airport and said the Egyptian Red Crescent rescue service was transporting it to the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. The official was not authorized to brief media and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Senior UN officials have warned that Gaza faces widespread famine and disease if more aid is not allowed in.

Israel completely sealed off Gaza after Hamas’s October 7 attack but later relented under US pressure. It says there are now no limits on the entry of humanitarian aid and that UN agencies could reduce the delays by providing more workers and trucks.

But UN officials say aid delivery is hobbled by the opening of too few border crossings, a slow vetting process, and continuing fighting throughout the territory — much of which is largely under Israel’s control.

Troops operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released by the military on January 17, 2024 (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel said at the start of the year that it had largely dismantled Hamas in northern Gaza and would scale back operations there, focusing on dense urban areas in the center and south of the territory. Some Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza on Monday.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said Wednesday that the death toll in the Strip had reached at least 24,448 people.

The figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 9,000 operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7. One hundred and ninety-two IDF soldiers have been killed in the ground offensive in Gaza.

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