Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement, brokered by Qatar and France, to allow a shipment of medicine and other aid into Gaza for the first time since November. The deal comes after over 100 days of conflict that has left Gaza residents lacking basic supplies.
Aid Reaches Gaza Border After Months of Fighting
A plane carrying medicine and aid from Qatar landed in Egypt Tuesday night before being transported overland to Gaza.
The shipment includes “drugs and medical supplies for chronic diseases” according to a Hamas official. It will be distributed to ill hostages held by Hamas as well as sick civilians living in Gaza.
This represents the first deal between Israel and Hamas since the fighting erupted in October. The arrival of aid comes after months of Israeli bombardment and strict border controls that blocked medical supplies and other essentials from entering Gaza.
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A source in Qatar, who helped arrange the shipment, stated “we managed to separate humanitarian aid from politics.” However other observers note Hamas may seek concessions in future aid deliveries.
Israel Insists on Inspecting Aid, Angering Hamas
The breakthrough deal almost collapsed over disagreements regarding inspection of the medical aid.
Israel demanded to inspect the shipment for contraband before allowing it into Gaza. But Hamas strongly opposed this, arguing it would set a “dangerous precedent”.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett defended Israel’s right to inspect. This prompted Hamas to withdraw from the agreement.
After tense negotiation, a compromise was reached allowing inspection of the aid only after it enters Gaza, avoiding direct Israeli involvement.
Critics accused Bennett of deliberately sabotaging the deal for political reasons. However his office dismissed this saying “the prime minister is committed to the return of the hostages and the civilians alike.”
Hostage Families Await News on Captive Relatives
With medicine now delivered, attention shifts to the condition of 2 Israeli hostages held captive in Gaza.
Itay Svirsky and Yossi Sharabi were captured by Hamas militants along the Gaza border in October 2023. There has been no contact with the hostages since their capture over 100 days ago.
The hostages’ families “prayed this day would come” when medicine would reach their relatives. However some expressed concern the drugs may do more harm than good without proper diagnoses.
Doctors warned many medicines can have serious side effects if given without medical supervision. But Hamas has refused offers to allow doctors to examine the hostages.
Next Steps: Further Aid or Continued Conflict
This deal represents a small step to ease tensions. But the big question is whether it can lead to a longer-term resolution of the conflict.
Hamas officials suggested they will seek a larger shipment of humanitarian aid in exchange for the next delivery of medicine to the hostages. “For every box of medicine that enters Gaza, we take 1,000” one Hamas leader insisted.
However Israeli ministers have threatened harsh retaliation for any renewed Hamas demands. This risks spiraling the violence once again after the brief respite.
Most expect the Israel-Hamas deal to result in only a short term pause in the fighting, not a lasting peace. As long as deeper issues remain unresolved, talks are likely to break down and the cycle of violence to continue.
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