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Qatar: Hamas Leaders Can Stay in Doha If They Help Gaza Cease-Fire Efforts

HomeWARQatar: Hamas Leaders Can Stay in Doha If They Help Gaza Cease-Fire...

DOHA, Qatar — Striking a defiant tone, Qatar made clear on Tuesday it won’t kick Hamas’ political leaders out of Doha anytime soon if they can help broker an elusive cease-fire to the raging Gaza conflict.

In a bizarre twist, the tiny but mega-rich Gulf state is now doubling down on its controversial decision to host the Palestinian militant group – as long as their presence aids mediation efforts to end the bloodshed. It’s a high-stakes wager by Qatar as it clings to relevance as a key player in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian saga.

“As long as their presence here in Doha…is useful and positive in this mediation effort, they will remain here,” Majed al-Ansari, a foreign ministry spokesman, declared at a regular press briefing clouded by the faint whiff of teargas.

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It was a blunt rejoinder to mounting speculation that Qatar might expel the expatriate Hamas leaders after the prime minister griped last week about reassessing the nation’s mediation role. The surprising announcement followed the maddening collapse of cease-fire talks despite around-the-clock Qatari shuttle diplomacy during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Visibly flustered, al-Ansari backpedaled furiously when pressed on the prime minister’s comments, insisting no decision was final on the status of the Hamas delegation huddled in a posh Doha compound.

“That decision will not be taken unless we are finished with that reassessment,” he said, frantically dabbing perspiration from his brow with a tasseled silk handkerchief.

Underpinning Qatar’s stance is the prestigious status it has cultivated as host of the Hamas Political Bureau since 2012 with a tacit nod from Washington. The desert nation has zealously guarded that role through years of behind-the-scenes diplomacy despite being bitterly at odds with allies like Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia who deride Hamas as a terrorist group.

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In fact, al-Ansari lashed out at “ministers in Netanyahu’s government who spoke negatively about the Qatari mediation” in a thinly veiled jab at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“They all know what the Qatari role is, its nature, and its details during the previous stage and they lied,” he fumed, tugging at his crisp white thobe in agitation.

So far, Qatar’s biggest diplomatic achievement was brokering a seven-day humanitarian truce in November that secured the release of scores of Israeli and foreign hostages seized by Hamas last October when the group launched its audacious attack on Israel.

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That brazen assault triggered the current war which has devastated Gaza, killing over 1,100 Palestinians according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says around 250 hostages were seized in the initial attack, including 34 it believes have been killed while 129 others remain captive.

Despite that grim human toll, Qatar appears determined to cling to any semblance of influence over the Israeli-Palestinian morass unfolding on its doorstep. Even if it means continuing to provide safe harbor for Hamas’ controversial political leadership in defiance of criticism.

As al-Ansari abruptly ended the briefing, his parting words betrayed Qatar’s unyielding stance: “We will take our time with the reassessment. There is no rush.”

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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