Israel-Hamas war: Talks on ceasefire, hostages at ‘delicate phase’, says Qatar

Israel has sped up settlement-building in East Jerusalem since Gaza war began, planning documents show

Talks on a Gaza ceasefire and a release of hostages are at a “delicate phase”, Qatari prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Wednesday

“We are trying as much as possible to address this stumbling block,” he added, without giving further details.

Qatar has frequently sounded upbeat about the prospects for a deal, but negotiations have been carrying on for months since the collapse of the first temporary pause in fighting and release of some hostages in November last year.

Qatar’s premier condemned what he described as the policy of “collective punishment” still followed by Israel in its war against the enclave’s ruling Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and the latest escalation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.


The ceasefire discussions, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, are continuing as a humanitarian crisis devastates Palestinians in Gaza with severe shortages of food, medicine and hospital care.

The war was triggered by surprise Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7th that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Elsewhere, planning documents show Israel’s government has accelerated the construction of settlements across East Jerusalem, with more than 20 projects totalling thousands of housing units having been approved or advanced since the start of the war in Gaza six months ago.

Ministries and offices within the Israeli government are behind all the largest and most contentious of the projects, sometimes in association with rightwing nationalist groups with a history of trying to evict Palestinians from their homes in parts of the city.

The rapid approval or construction of settlements that are illegal under international law is likely to further damage Israel’s relationship with the Biden administration.

The new settlements will offer homes for Israel’s majority Jewish population in parts of Jerusalem that were unilaterally annexed by Israel in 1980, and are likely to be an obstacle to any attempt to create a viable Palestinian state with the east of the city as its capital.

The Gaza war has put a renewed focus on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as foreseen by the Oslo accords in the early 1990s.

The United States, EU and UK have recently imposed sanctions on individual settlers in the West Bank amid surging violence.

Israeli planning authorities have approved two new settlements since the outbreak of the war, the first to be approved in East Jerusalem in more than a decade.

A recent United Nations report noted the policies of Israel’s government, which is the most right wing in the country’s history and includes religious nationalists with close ties to settlers, appeared aligned with the goals of the Israeli settler movement to an “unprecedented extent”.

Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories had expanded by a record amount and risked eliminating any practical possibility of a Palestinian state, the UN report said.

About 40 per cent of Jerusalem’s population of roughly one million are Palestinian. Maintaining a Jewish majority in the city has been an aim of successive Israeli governments.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the six-day war of 1967 and later annexed it in a move not recognised by most of the international community. Permanent settlement of territory occupied militarily is illegal under international law. – Agencies