Updated April 20th, 2024 at 19:28 IST

Hamas Considering the Possibility of Leaving Qatar as Ceasefire Negotiations Flounder: Report

The ongoing hostage talks could be jeopardised if Hamas decides to move to nation that is not as willing as Qatar to deal with Israel and its Western partners.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh may be considering a move away from Qatar. | Image:AP

Doha: After more than six months of the war in Gaza, negotiations to end the conflict and secure the release of Israeli hostages still held in the Strip appear to have stalled. Just last week, Hamas leadership rejected the latest ceasefire proposal from the Israeli side, with one of the major sticking points being that the group is demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, a demand that Israel is seemingly not willing to entertain. 

Additionally, the Hamas reportedly is only willing to release 20 hostages for a six-week ceasefire and release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. This is around half the number of hostages that Israel was seeking to have released under a new deal. With negotiations stalled, both Hamas and Israel are accusing each other of not being interested in reaching a diplomatic solution though neither side has, as yet, completely pulled out of talks.


This situation, however, could become more complicated if the latest reports are to be believed. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Hamas leadership may be looking to relocate from Qatar and, as some anonymous Arab officials said to WSJ, is already in talks with at least two Arab nations to potentially bring about such a move. 

For context, it should be noted that the leadership of Hamas, including Ismail Haniyeh, have called Qatar home since at least 2012, with the group having an office in the capital Doha. Qatar's decision to continue hosting Hamas, particularly after the events of October 7, has attracted considerable criticism but, as the leaders of the Gulf nation have pointed out on numerous occasions, this arrangement was actually encouraged by the US. 


This is because, while the US has designated Hamas as a terrorist organisation, it still sees use for maintaining an indirect diplomatic channel to the group, with Qatar functioning as the intermediary. 

All the same, this position has put considerable pressure on Qatar to perform in decidedly difficult negotiations. Following Hamas' rejection of Israel's ceasefire terms, for instance, US Democrat Congressman Steny H Hoyer said that Hamas is “using” Qatar in order to extract greater concessions from Israel. He called on Qatar to put pressure on Hamas to accept a ceasefire deal and release hostages or face the threat of eviction from Doha and a cutting-off of funds that Qatar provides to the group. 


Failing this, Hoyer's statement warned, the US could ‘re-evaluate’ its relationship with Qatar. 

Back in January, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who has frequently said that Qatar could be doing much more for the success of the negotiations, was heard saying in a leaked recording of a meeting that he finds Qatar's role in the peace talks “problematic”. 


"You haven't seen me thank Qatar, have you noticed? I haven't thanked Qatar. Why? Because Qatar, to me, is no different in essence from the UN, from the Red Cross and in a way it's even more problematic. However, I'm willing to use any mediator now who can help me bring them (the hostages) home," Netanyahu reportedly said in the aforementioned recording.

In the face of such statements, Qatar recently said that it was reconsidering its role as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, with the nation's PM, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani saying that Qatar's efforts are being used “for narrow political interests.”


Regardless of whether Qatar is serious about taking a step back from negotiations or whether it is making such statements in protest against growing criticism of its role, the Wall Street Journal report mentioned above indicates that Qatar may well be piling on some amount of pressure on Hamas during the negotiations in turn. 

One anonymous Arab official quoted in the report claimed that Egyptian and Qatari officials have attempted to pressure Hamas in recent weeks to soften its negotiating position and accept the deal being offered by the other side. At times, the quoted official claims, the group's leaders have even been threatened with eviction. 


The report notes that the continued failure of negotiations at this point is leading to a buildup of mistrust between Qatar and the Hamas leaders it is hosting. As such, Hamas is now reportedly reaching out to different states with a proposal to host its leaders, with Oman particularly being mentioned in the report. 

It should also be noted that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is currently visiting Turkey for a meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been increasingly critical of Israel and the West as the war in Gaza continues.


It has been rumoured though not explicitly confirmed that Turkey is seeking a greater role in the ongoing ceasefire negotiations and the country has also been touted as one of the destinations Hamas leadership could migrate to if it decides to leave Doha. 

If Hamas does decide to shift and its new home is a nation that is not as willing as Qatar to work with Israel and its Western supporters as an intermediary, the report notes that the development could completely upend the ongoing hostage talks.  


Published April 20th, 2024 at 19:28 IST