Israel and Hamas have reached a mediated deal to allow the delivery of medicine and aid to Israeli hostages held in Gaza, as well as to Palestinian civilians in the territory. This marks the first agreement between the warring parties since November 2023.
Aid Groups Deliver Supplies to Gaza and Hostages
On January 17th, a Qatari plane carrying medicine landed in Egypt, which were then transported overland through Israel before arriving in Gaza. The supplies included specialized drugs and medical equipment for Israeli hostages captured by Hamas. At the same time, ten truckloads of aid and medical supplies donated by Qatar and France entered Gaza through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom commercial crossing.
The delivery was facilitated by mediation from Qatar and Egypt. Its purpose was twofold – to provide medicine and aid for civilians in Gaza suffering from shortages, and to deliver medications to Israeli hostages held captive by Hamas since the latest round of conflict reignited in November 2023.
So far, it remains unclear whether the hostage medications have reached their intended recipients. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has facilitated such transfers in the past, has denied involvement in delivering the drugs to Hamas. Israel had demanded that the ICRC handle the handover.
Israel Inspects Incoming Medical Trucks
According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), the trucks containing medical supplies for Gaza underwent security inspections on the Israeli side before proceeding into the Palestinian enclave.
IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav stated: “We checked everything that went in, item by item, truck by truck, box by box – everything was inspected and continues to be inspected as we speak.”
The IDF said it would continue monitoring the aid shipments closely to ensure no prohibited dual-use items end up in Hamas’ hands. Israel maintains a blockade on Gaza meant to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and materials that could be used for military purposes. Rights groups have argued the blockade collectively punishes Gazans.
Hamas Sets Conditions for Hostage Medicine Handover
While the Qatari envoy to Gaza Muhammad Al-Emadi announced that the “problem of Israeli hostages has been solved”, Hamas has continued placing new conditions around the hostage medicine transfer.
Hamas is demanding Israel release Palestinian prisoners and remains of deceased fighters in exchange for confirmation that drugs have reached the Israeli captives. Israel has refused, stating it negotiated in “good faith” and expected the medications to be handed to its citizens without preconditions.
Table 1: Number of Israeli Hostages Held by Hamas
|Number of Hostages
With an election approaching in November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under immense pressure to resolve the hostage crisis. However, with Hamas angling for more concessions, a solution remains elusive. Netanyahu has ordered the defense establishment to prepare plans for a possible limited ground operation in Gaza to resolve the situation.
International Efforts to End Israel-Hamas War Continue
The mediated medicine and aid deal represents the only agreement between bitter enemies Israel and Hamas after months of bloody conflict along the Israel-Gaza frontier.
Over 60 Israelis have died in the latest round of fighting sparked by an Israeli raid in the West Bank last November. Hamas and other militant groups have fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities and towns. The Israeli military has conducted waves of airstrikes trying to degrade Palestinian military capabilities. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, including civilians.
Despite the miniature breakthrough on aid, French President Emmanuel Macron said wider negotiations to de-escalate tensions have stalled. Egypt and Qatar continue acting as go-betweens but a longer-term ceasefire remains unlikely for now. Israel has said it will only consider a ceasefire if there are measures in place to prevent Hamas from rearming.
The economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, where over 2 million Palestinians live under Hamas rule, remains severe. The United Nations has described the devastation as “unprecedented.”
What Happens Next?
In the short term, the focus will be on whether Hamas allows the medications meant for Israeli hostages to actually reach them. However, with Hamas insisting on more concessions, there is widespread skepticism about whether the drugs will be handed over.
If the hostage medications are not transferred soon, Israel may proceed with threats of a limited ground operation within Gaza. This could spark another round of deadly fighting.
More broadly, efforts by mediators to broker a sustainable ceasefire have not yielded results. As Israel heads towards elections in November, Prime Minister Netanyahu faces pressure to take decisive action regarding both ending Hamas rocket fire and returning Israeli hostages. With neither Hamas nor Israel wanting to be seen as folding, the prospects for an end to the war in the near future seem dim.
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