Qatar’s special envoy to Gaza confirmed Sunday the existence of indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on solving simmering tensions and a humanitarian crisis in the coastal enclave.
“The US administration knows about the talks,” Muhammad al-Amadi told China’s state-run news agency Xinhua while visiting Gaza.
His comment was the first official confirmation of the talks between Hamas and Israel, though negotiations for a long-term ceasefire and lifting of the blockade have long been reported on unofficially in the Israeli and Palestinian press.
Al-Amadi said no deal had been reached, but talks were ongoing. He did not say who was mediating the talks, though Qatar and Egypt are believed to be two major players in the negotiations.
Al-Amadi, who is the Qatar royal family’s official appointment in charge of the Strip’s reconstruction, confirmed that the US presented a plan for major infrastructure projects in the Strip intended to address a lack of clean water, electricity, a high unemployment rate and other ills plaguing the beleaguered enclave during a recent trip by Jared Kushner, son-in-law to US President Donald Trump, and Washington’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt.
“We demanded lifting the blockade on Gaza, which suffered three wars … we highlighted to the Americans and Israelis the need to achieve this, and we are working on this matter, but so far we have not reached any results,” al-Amadi told the Chinese agency.
Israel has demanded that Hamas, the terror group ruling the strip, release Israeli captives and the remains of two soldiers, as well as disarm as part of any agreement to ease the blockade.
The talks have come even as tensions on Israel’s Gaza border have significantly increased in recent months amid mass protests and the launching of hundreds of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. Israeli airstrikes on the Strip have increased in response, as well as shootings of Palestinians attempting to breach the border fence.
Al-Amadi said that neither Israel nor Hamas were interested in another war.
“We are looking for a permanent solution to the problems of Gaza and we want to prevent any new war against the enclave,” he told Xinhua.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to prevent the smuggling of arms or other materials that could be used to build up military infrastructure,
Hamas seized control in 2007 of Gaza from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by the rival Fatah party. Several attempts at reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah have failed.
The Palestinian Authority, which refused to meet with Kushner and Greenblatt in June, reportedly rejects any proposal that will help Hamas bolster its hold the Strip, claiming that the entire Palestinian issue must be resolved as a whole.
“We will not interfere without the consent and the presence of the Palestinian Authority,” al-Amadi told Xinhua.
The Qatari diplomat, who regularly shuttles between Doha and Gaza, maintains good ties with both Israel and Hamas.
“I am in contact with senior Israeli officials and agencies and the relationship is great,” al-Amadi told The Times of Israel in an interview last year, the first time an official Qatari representative had spoken with Israeli press.