Qatar and France send medicine for hostages in Gaza as war rages on and regional tensions spike

A shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Hamas was en route to Gaza on Wednesday after France and Qatar mediated the first agreement between Israel and the militant group since a weeklong cease-fire broke down in November.

The medicines will be shipped through Egypt and delivered to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which will then hand them over to Hamas. Qatar said the deal also includes the delivery of additional medicine and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave.

The deal came more than 100 days into a conflict that shows no sign of ending and which has sparked tensions across the Middle East, with a dizzying array of strikes and counterstrikes in recent days from northern Iraq to the Red Sea and from southern Lebanon to Pakistan.

In Gaza, Palestinian militants are still putting up resistance across the narrow coastal strip in the face of one of the deadliest military campaigns in recent history. Some 85% of the territory’s population of 2.3 million people have fled their homes and the U.N. says a quarter of the population is starving.

Israel has vowed to dismantle Hamas’ military and governing abilities to ensure that it can never repeat the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Militants burst through Israel’s border defenses and stormed through several communities, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and capturing around 250.

Israel blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because it fights in dense residential areas. Israel says its forces have killed roughly 9,000 militants, without providing evidence, and that 190 of its own soldiers have been killed in the Gaza offensive.

Palestinian militants are still fighting in all parts of the territory, and Israel appears no closer to freeing the scores of hostages still held by Hamas. Two hostages’ deaths were confirmed on Tuesday after Hamas said they were killed in Israeli airstrikes.

France said it took months to organize the shipment of the medicines. Qatar, which has long served as a mediator with Hamas, helped broker the deal, which will provide three months’ worth of medication for chronic illnesses for 45 of the hostages as well as other medicine and vitamins.

Several elderly men are among the remaining hostages held by Hamas after most women and children were released in November.

Qatar said the deal includes the provision of additional humanitarian aid to Gaza, without elaborating.

Senior U.N. officials have warned that Gaza faces widespread famine and disease if more aid is not allowed in.

Israel completely sealed off Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and only relented under U.S. pressure. It says there are now no limits on the entry of humanitarian aid and that U.N. agencies could reduce the delays by providing more workers and trucks.

But U.N. officials say aid delivery is hobbled by the opening of too few border crossings, a slow vetting process, and continuing fighting throughout the territory — all of which is largely under Israel’s control.


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