Convince Hamas that freeing the hostages is the only way to avoid an all-out war


Qatar played a central role in securing the surprise release Friday of an American mother and daughter held hostage by Hamas. Now that Judith Raanan and her daughter, Natalie, are free, negotiators in Qatar hope that Hamas’s release of more captives “could lead to broader dialogue or mediation” aimed at avoiding a full-scale war. said a diplomat with knowledge of the situation. The conversations told NBC News on Saturday.

There were “ups and downs” during the discussions, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. In the end, the American mother and daughter were freed because negotiators managed to convince Hamas that the unconditional release of two hostages could serve as a confidence-building measure.

Following the release of the two women, President Joe Biden thanked “the government of Qatar and the government of Israel for their collaboration in this work,” in a statement.

Mamoun Fandy, president of the London Institute for Global Strategy, a think tank based in the British capital, said the successful hostage negotiation with Hamas allowed Qatar to demonstrate that it is “the center of diplomacy in this crisis.”

The release of the two Americans is the latest in a series of diplomatic initiatives by the small, oil-rich Persian Gulf state. Qatar recently helped negotiate a prisoner exchange between the United States and Iran, as well as the release of four Ukrainian children from Russia.

It also hosted peace talks with the Taliban ahead of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. But Qatar’s history of hosting Hamas political leaders could complicate its effort to present itself to Israel as a mediator.

Natalie Shoshana Raanan (left) and Judith Tai Raanan speak with President Joe Biden on cell phone
Natalie Raanan, left, and Judith Raanan speak with President Joe Biden after being released by Hamas on Friday.US Embassy in Jerusalem via AFP – Getty Images

Judith and Natalie Raanan were staying at a kibbutz called Nahal Oz in southern Israel before Hamas captured them on its territory. massive terrorist attack on October 7. After 13 days in captivity, the couple was met at the Gaza border on Friday by Israeli Brig. General Gal Hirsch and taken to a military base where they were reunited with their families.

The diplomat said negotiators are now hopeful that if more hostages are freed, it could clear the way for broader talks on how to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, home to 2 million Palestinians. They also hope it will set the conditions for broader talks that could limit the Israeli military operation in Gaza to one that targets the Hamas leadership and prevents a full Israeli occupation of the coastal strip.

The diplomat said Qatar has been urging Hamas to release its hostages. “The Israelis have made it clear that they are not willing to talk until all the hostages are freed. “Therefore, it may be better for Hamas to release them faster because that may lead to broader dialogue or mediation.”

But Eldad Shavit, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, warned that the release of the two hostages was “probably manipulation” by Hamas.

“My assumption is that Hamas is carrying out a military operation and also a political campaign,” said Shavit, who has held senior positions in Israeli defense intelligence and in the prime minister’s office. He added that he thought Hamas hoped to pressure both the international community and Israel “not to proceed with plans, military plans.”

It’s doubtful that’s possible, according to Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at Le Beck International, a security and risk management consultancy. Many Israelis, given the killing of more than 1,000 civilians by Hamas in the October 7 terrorist attacks, will argue that a full-scale ground invasion ending with the complete destruction of Hamas is the only acceptable outcome.

While Qatar was “proving to be a key U.S. ally and fending off criticism related to its decision to continue hosting senior Hamas leaders,” Horowitz said images and testimony of the attack were too fresh in Americans’ memories. Israelis.

“The best chance we all have to put out the flames is to press two parallel tracks, namely the release of hostages on the one hand, and the entry of much-needed humanitarian aid into Gaza on the other,” Horowitz said. . “This is a sensible strategy, although I would say the chances of avoiding some kind of Israeli incursion are still low.”

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