(Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Qatar and France made an agreement in which Israel would approve more aid to Gaza in exchange for Hamas allowing medicine to be delivered to the hostages.


France confirmed on Wednesday that 45 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have received urgent medications that entered the enclave over a month ago in a deal brokered by Paris and Doha.

The Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ deputy spokesperson expressed this to local media, and the government ministry also contacted the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group representing the families of those captured by Hamas on Oct. 7, which confirmed the exchange in a statement.

“We wish to personally thank President Emmanuel Macron of France for his meaningful initiative and involvement in facilitating this process through Qatar,” the Forum said in a press release.

“We anxiously followed this effort and are grateful for the compassion and humanity displayed by President Macron on this issue. France is a true friend to the families of the hostages, and we will not forget their support in this matter.”

Forty-two French citizens were killed in the Hamas-led attack on the northwestern Negev and three others are missing and believed to be held by Hamas. A total of 1,200 people were murdered on that day, thousands more wounded and 253 taken captive, with 134 still there after 139 days, 32 of whom are confirmed dead.

The French announcement came a day after Qatar confirmed that the terrorist group in Gaza had received the shipment of medical supplies and has started delivering them to hostages in Gaza.

Israel said that it was evaluating the credibility of the confirmation from Hamas.

“The Qatari announcement is the direct result of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on receiving proof that the medicines have reached our hostages,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“Israel will evaluate the credibility of the report and continue to act for the well-being of our hostages,” the statement continued.

“Qatar received these confirmations as the mediator in the agreement, which includes the entry of the medicines and shipment of humanitarian aid to civilians in the Gaza Strip, especially in the most affected and damaged areas, in exchange for delivering the medicines needed by hostages in the sector,” Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman, Majed Al-Ansari, said in a statement.

In mid-January, Qatar and France mediated an agreement in which Israel would approve more humanitarian aid to Gaza in exchange for Hamas allowing medicine to be delivered to the hostages.

France purchased and delivered to Doha a list of medicines for some 45 captives who urgently needed them, with Qatar and Hamas announcing on Jan. 17 that the vital drugs had entered the Strip. A senior Hamas official said at the time that for every box provided for the hostages, 1,000 boxes of medicine were being sent in for Gazans.

On Feb. 9, Qatar informed Israel and France of Hamas’s assurances that the medicines were delivered to the hostages, but the families of two hostages rescued from Rafah on Feb. 12 said their loved ones had not received medication.

A secret operation to deliver medicines to the hostages was revealed on Feb. 16 when IDF soldiers found boxes of medicine at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis with the names of hostages on them.

Rotem Cooper, whose father, Amiram Cooper, 85, was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz and has been held in Gaza for 138 days, helped organize an operation to send medicine into the Gaza Strip for the hostages. The move was unknown to the Israeli government.

The medicine was transferred from European countries to Egypt and then to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing, with help from local and international organizations, Channel 12 reported.

“We have no indication that the drugs actually reached one hostage or another. We will only know this if someone returns from captivity and reports that he has received a certain medication,” Rotem Cooper told the Israeli news network.

“My mother was released on day 17, before the shipment came in. The last abductees were released on day 55 and we did not thoroughly interrogate them on the matter. This was more or less around the time the first drugs went in,” he explained.

He started a WhatsApp chat group on Oct. 8, the day after the Hamas massacre, called “Medicines for Abductees.” It began as a way to gather information about which medicines were needed by the captives.

The group then took the initiative to send medicine independently of the government, the first shipment entered the Gaza Strip in mid-November.

The organizers had no intention of revealing the existence of the secret shipments and only did so because of the discovery by the IDF. “[W]e wanted to control the narrative. Of course, we really want to show that such initiatives bring results,” Rotem Cooper said.

Paris to host another high-level summit on a potential hostage deal

Israel is expected to send a delegation to Paris for another summit on securing the release of the remaining hostages, Hebrew media reported on Thursday.

The meetings will take place this Friday and Saturday, building on the initial gathering in the French capital late last month as well as talks in Cairo last week aimed at realizing a proposal set forth by mediators to free the captives in exchange for an extended pause in fighting.

Heading to Paris are the same players from the Jan. 28 French summit and who met in Cairo on Feb. 13—David Barnea, head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency; CIA Director Bill Burns; head of Egyptian intelligence Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel; and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

However, Jerusalem reportedly wants to see more progress in the ongoing talks between Hamas and Egypt currently taking place in Cairo before confirming its attendance at the second Paris summit.

Qatar-based Hamas senior political leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for ceasefire talks, the terrorist group in Gaza announced on its Telegram channel.

He is heading a Hamas delegation in Egypt’s capital along with deputy Hamas chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya, who led a Hamas delegation for negotiations in Cairo earlier this month.

Haniyeh “came at the head of a delegation of the organization’s leadership, in order to hold discussions with Egyptian officials about the efforts to stop the aggression, provide relief to the citizens and achieve the goal of our people,” the Hamas statement read.

Jerusalem on Wednesday denied a Saudi report that it was sending a delegation to Cairo after Hamas “softened its positions.”

An Israeli source told Ynet that “the Saudi report is incorrect, an Israeli delegation is not going to Cairo. Israel is waiting for Hamas’ response, which should arrive today or tomorrow—and then a decision will be made.”

Netanyahu has described the terrorist group’s demands as “delusional.”

Bowing to the terrorist organization’s demands will lead to another massacre and a “major disaster” no Israeli citizen will accept, he emphasized, speaking from his office in Jerusalem earlier this month.

“We are on our way to total victory,” he declared. “Total victory over Hamas will not take years. It will take months. Victory is within reach,” he said.

“The IDF is working miracles and working methodically to achieve all the goals that we set,” he added.