The Guardian reports: International efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip are focusing on the Gulf state of Qatar, whose close links to Hamas make it uniquely placed to try to mediate in a conflict that has highlighted Arab divisions in the face of Israeli attacks.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, was flying to Doha at the start of a round of emergency talks to try to halt the escalating carnage. Ban was due to meet the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and head of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. It was unclear whether Ban would also see the Hamas leader, Khaled Mishal, who lives in Doha.
Mishal and Abbas were due to meet separately.
Ban is also due in Cairo on Monday to see President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, author of a rival ceasefire plan that has already been rejected by Hamas. Hamas said Mishal had also been invited to the Egyptian capital.
Khaled al-Attiyeh, Qatar’s foreign minister, has emerged as a key figure in the ceasefire effort, not least because he is close to John Kerry, the US secretary of state. The Qataris say they are simply providing a “channel of communication” to discuss an agreement that contains the key Hamas demands: an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, an opening of the border with Egypt and a release of scores of recently re-arrested prisoners by Israel.
Qatar’s role as mediator is being enhanced because of the deep hostility of the Egyptian government to Hamas, which has close links to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, a key element of the Egyptian initiative – rejected by Hamas – is the return of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to Gaza, for the first time since the 2007 takeover of the territory by the Palestinian Islamist movement. [Continue reading…]