ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Qatar agrees to review Hamas ties after Gaza hostage situation resolved – report

Reported deal between emir and US secretary of defense yet to cover fate of terror group’s leaders in Doha, which has served as key mediator between Gaza and Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Lusail on October 13, 2023. (Jacquelyn Martin / POOL / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Lusail on October 13, 2023. (Jacquelyn Martin / POOL / AFP)

The United States and Qatar have agreed to reevaluate the Gulf monarchy’s relationship with Hamas after Doha completes its role in freeing hostages taken by the terror group during its October 7 massacre in Israel, according to a report Thursday.

It is yet to be decided if the review will include the potential deportation of Hamas’s leaders living in Qatar or other similar measures directed at the terror group’s political bureau, The Washington Post reported, citing four diplomats with knowledge of the discussions.

The agreement was reached during a recent meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and is an attempt by Washington to balance its short-term objective of freeing as many hostages as possible against the long-term strategy of choking off Hamas’s support, the report said.

Qatar, a US ally that hosts a large American military base, also hosts Hamas’s political bureau and doubles as the main residence of its self-exiled leader Ismail Haniyeh, as well as its former leader Khaled Mashaal. The country is one of Hamas’s main backers, transferring hundreds of millions of dollars to the terror group annually.

Due to their close ties, the wealthy Gulf monarchy has acted as a communications channel with Hamas and is playing a key role in negotiations to release some of the at least 224 hostages currently held by terrorists in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’s murderous assault on Israel on October 7, in which some 1,400 were killed, the vast majority of them civilians.

Four of the hostages have been freed.

File: Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders leading a prayer before hosting an Iftar Ramadan fast-breaking dinner in Qatar with Qatari officials and international diplomats, April 13, 2023. (Hamas.ps)

In past rounds of violence, Qatar also played a role in brokering ceasefires between Israel and Gazan terror groups.

The Gulf monarchy received rare praise from Israel this week when National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi commended its role in hostage negotiations.

“I’m pleased to say that Qatar is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions. Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time,” Hanegbi posted on X, formerly Twitter.

If Doha were to downgrade its ties with the terror group, its leaders may move to a country with less of a capability to act as an intermediary, breaking those crucial lines of communication.

“If Hamas leaders left Qatar, they would likely go to Iran or Syria or Lebanon, or somewhere farther afield such as Algeria,” Bruce Riedel, a Middle East scholar and former official at the CIA, told The Post. “Relocating to Syria would amount to a feather in the cap of President Bashar Assad but they would most likely just move to Iran.”

“Qatar has a 360-degree foreign policy,” he continued. “They host senior Hamas political officials. They provide the United States with a huge air base. They talk to the Iranians. They cover all their bases so they can communicate with anybody at any time in a low-key fashion.”

Qatar has also borne withering criticism from the US and others over its pan-Arab, staunchly anti-Israel satellite news network Al Jazeera. It aired statements from the late al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden and has been providing nonstop coverage of the toll of Israel’s large-scale airstrikes in this war with Hamas, including images of the dead and dying that have fueled demonstrations across the Middle East and wider world.

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, right, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken make statements in Doha, Qatar, Oct. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

According to a Wednesday report, Blinken asked Qatar’s prime minister to tone down the state-owned Al Jazeera’s rhetoric about the Gaza war.

The request to “turn down the volume on Al Jazeera’s coverage because it is full of anti-Israel incitement,” Axios reported, suggesting that the US fears the Qatari network’s coverage of the war is inflaming tensions in the region.

The request was one of several Blinken made as part of a broader plea for Qatar to change its public posture toward Hamas, the report said.

Speaking alongside the Qatari prime minister in Doha earlier this month, Blinken said “there can be no more business as usual with Hamas.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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