PM: Israel to 'examine the credibility of the announcement'

One month after they entered Gaza, Qatar says Hamas has begun giving meds to hostages

Announcement from Doha offers no explanation for delay or any proof the hostages received medicines

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Medication belonging to hostages found at Nasser Hospital, in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published by the IDF on February 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Medication belonging to hostages found at Nasser Hospital, in southern Gaza's Khan Younis, in a handout image published by the IDF on February 18, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Qatar has received confirmation from Hamas that the terror group has acquired medications for the Israeli hostages in Gaza and that it has begun delivering them to the abductees, Doha announced on Tuesday, over one month after the medical shipment entered the enclave.

“The State of Qatar has received confirmation from the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] regarding the receipt of a shipment of medicines and the commencement of their delivery to beneficiaries among the hostages in the Gaza Strip, in implementation of an agreement between Hamas and Israel, mediated by Qatar in cooperation with France last month,” said a statement from Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari, which offered no explanation for the apparent delay, nor any proof that the hostages had received the medications.

On January 16, Qatar announced that it had successfully brokered an agreement between Israel and Hamas that would see medications delivered to specific hostages in need, as well as medical supplies for Gazan civilians.

On January 17, Qatari and Hamas authorities announced that the medications had entered Gaza. Since then, there has been no confirmation that any of the hostages had received the medications.

Tuesday’s announcement from Qatar appeared to be the closest thing yet to such a confirmation.

On Wednesday France’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the announcement made by Qatar, but similarly did not offer proof. Responding to France’s confirmation Wednesday, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum thanked French President Emmanuel Macron of France “for his meaningful initiative and involvement in facilitating this process through Qatar.”

“We anxiously followed this effort and are grateful for the compassion and humanity displayed by President Macron on this issue. France is a true friend to the families of the hostages, and we will not forget their support in this matter,” the forum added.

An Arab diplomat familiar with the negotiations told The Times of Israel earlier this month that the presentation of such proof wasn’t part of the Qatar-mediated agreement and is unlikely to come. However, they claimed Hamas wants to keep the hostages alive, as they are worth more to the terror group than if they are dead. Accordingly, it has an interest in ensuring that the hostages receive the medicine, the diplomat said.

Families of Israelis held in Hamas captivity protest calling for the government to find a solution to have the hostages released, outside IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv, February 20, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Moreover, they said that claims from the families of specific hostages that their loved ones had not received their medications were likely due to the fact that they were not on the list of the several dozen hostages slated to receive meds.

Last week, the IDF said its troops uncovered medications with the names of hostages on them during operations at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, though those reportedly were from a separate shipment that was snuck into Gaza in November, as part of an independent initiative by several hostage families.

While Israeli officials have publicly demanded proof that the hostages received the medications, privately they’ve acknowledged that Jerusalem will have no choice but to simply trust the word of Qatar that they’ve indeed been received.

Responding to Qatar’s announcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement claiming that it was the “direct result” of the premier’s insistence that Israel receive proof that the meds given reached the abductees. “Israel will examine the credibility of the announcement and will continue to work for the wellbeing of our hostages.”

Doha has pushed back aggressively against Netanyahu’s calls for it to pressure Hamas, claiming they are an attempt to prolong the war.

Two hundred and fifty-three hostages were taken on October 7, when Hamas led a devastating attack on southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people and committing wholesale atrocities. Over half the hostages, 134, remain in captivity, and efforts to free them have yet to bear fruit.

Many of the hostages, including a number of elderly men, suffer from chronic conditions, making the delivery of medication essential. Most of the elderly hostages were among the 109 released during a truce in late November.

Since their kidnapping, the International Committee of the Red Cross has failed to coax Hamas into allowing their medics to visit the hostages in order to examine their wellbeing.

The only proof of life that Israel has received from a handful of the hostages has been from propaganda videos periodically released by Hamas in which the abductees are seen urging Netanyahu’s government to do more to secure their release.

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