US Demands Qatar Expel Hamas If Group Rejects Israeli Truce Deal

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, May 04, 2024 - 09:30 PM

Via The Cradle

US officials have told Qatar to expel Hamas’ political leadership if the Palestinian militant group rejects the latest proposal for a ceasefire with Israel, The Washington Post reports Saturday. A US official speaking on the condition of anonymity with The Post said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered the message to Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in April.

Three diplomats familiar with the matter said Qatari officials have expected the request for months, as ceasefire talks mediated by Qatari and Egyptian officials have repeatedly failed. Qatari officials have advised Hamas officials to prepare to depart for another country should they be forced to leave, one of the diplomats told The Post. Some have speculated that Turkiye may be a possible future host of the group.

Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (R) in a meeting with Hamas official Khaled Mashal in Doha, Qatar govt handout

Doha has hosted Hamas’ political leadership, including Ismail Haniyeh, at the US’ request since 2012 and provided billions in cash to the Hamas authorities governing Gaza in recent years with the approval of the US and Israel. 

However, Qatar has come under criticism from US and Israeli officials since Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October. During the operation, Hamas attacked Israeli military bases and settlements to break the 17-year siege on Gaza. Some 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed, including some by Hamas and others by Israeli forces, which used attack helicopters, tanks, and drones in their own settlements (kibbutzim) to respond to the operation.

Hamas also took some 240 Israelis captive, of which roughly 100 remain alive in Gaza, to exchange for some of the thousands of Palestinians held captive in Israeli jails. 

The White House has sought to use the threat of expelling Hamas from Qatar as leverage in ceasefire negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the return of the Israeli captives without offering a permanent end to the war in return. 

Netanyahu has long insisted that Israel only agree to a temporary ceasefire in exchange for the return of the Israeli captives, after which the army would be allowed to resume the war on Gaza, which he claims is meant to eliminate Hamas. Hamas has rejected the idea of a temporary ceasefire in hopes of ending the war permanently and winning the return of displaced Palestinians from northern Gaza to their homes, though many have been destroyed by Israeli bombing.

After seven months of war, the Israeli army has succeeded in killing a reported over 34,000 Palestinians, including over 14,000 children according to Gaza Health Ministry casualties, and has laid waste to large swathes of Gaza’s cities and farmland. However, the army has not defeated Hamas, whose fighters continue to carry out operations against occupying Israeli troops. 

Netanyahu has also used the threat of an all-out invasion of Rafah, the city on the Egypt border where over 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, as leverage to force Hamas to agree to a ceasefire and prisoner exchange on Israel’s terms. 

Blinken returned to Israel this week in hopes of pressuring Hamas to agree to the latest Israeli proposal. "We are determined to get a ceasefire that brings the hostages home and to get it now, and the only reason that wouldn’t be achieved is because of Hamas," Blinken said Wednesday in Tel Aviv. "There is a proposal on the table, and as we’ve said: no delays, no excuses. The time is now." A Hamas delegation is expected to visit Cairo this weekend, potentially to respond in writing to Israel’s latest proposal, Reuters reported Friday.

Major Israeli strike have continued to rock Gaza this week:

As negotiations have dragged on, US officials and lawmakers have blamed Qatar for its failure to force Hamas to agree to a deal. Some US lawmakers have called on the White House to force Qatar to not only expel the Hamas leadership but to cut ties with the group entirely.

However, some analysts say expelling Hamas from Qatar will not assist Israel. "Applying pressure to Hamas in Doha is ineffective pressure," an official briefed on the talks said. "The problem is the guys making the decisions are in Gaza, and they don’t care where the political office is located," this person said.

Patrick Theros, a former US ambassador to Qatar, told The Post that kicking Hamas out of Qatar would simply sabotage the current talks further. "We’d be cutting off our nose to spite our face," he said.

Qatari officials have expressed frustration for the criticism they are receiving, simply for doing what the US had requested of them. "We did not enter into a relationship with Hamas because we wanted to. We were asked by the U.S.," Majed al-Ansari, adviser to the Qatari prime minister and spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, stated last week to Israeli media.

"Qatar is being used as a political punching bag for those who are looking either to safeguard their political futures or to find more votes in the next elections," he said in response to US and Israeli criticism.