Qatar pushing for Gaza 'pause' before Ramadan


Qatar is "hopeful" of a Gaza war ceasefire and is pushing for an agreement before Ramadan, its foreign ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The gas-rich Gulf state, which hosts Hamas's political bureau, has been a key mediator in negotiations involving the Palestinian militants, Israel, the United States and Egypt.

"We remain hopeful, not necessarily optimistic, that we can announce something today or tomorrow, but we remain hopeful that we can get to some kind of agreement," Majed al-Ansari told a regular briefing.

"Obviously, we said that Ramadan is going to be a point of contention, it's going to be a point of confrontation, that we are going to push for a pause before the beginning of Ramadan.

"We are all aiming towards that target, but the situation is still fluid on the ground," he added.

Ansari was speaking after US President Joe Biden said a new ceasefire and hostage release could start as soon as Monday, ahead of the Muslim holy month that will begin around March 11.

"Till now we don't have an agreement, we are still working on the negotiations on all sides," Ansari said.

Israel's air, land and sea war against Hamas in retaliation for its deadly October 7 attacks on southern Israel has killed at least 29,878 people, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says.

Hamas attacked rural communities and military posts bordering the Gaza Strip, leaving at least 1,160 people dead, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Some 250 hostages were taken, of whom 130 are still in Gaza, although about 30 are thought to be dead, Israel says.

A one-week pause in fighting in November saw more than 100 hostages released, including 80 Israelis who were freed in exchange for some 240 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

Egyptian, Qatari and U.S. mediators met in Doha on Sunday for talks also attended by Israeli and Hamas representatives, state-linked Egyptian media said.

The Doha talks followed a meeting in Paris, without Hamas, where representatives "came to an understanding among the four of them about what the basic contours of a hostage deal for temporary ceasefire would look like", White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN.

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