Medicine for Israeli hostages and Palestinians arrives in Gaza under deal struck by Qatar

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Medicine for Israeli hostages and Palestinians has entered Gaza, Qatar said Wednesday, after the Gulf nation brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas to provide vital medication to the war-torn enclave.

The agreement mediated by Qatar Tuesday will see medication delivered to Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for medicine and humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.

“Over the past few hours, medicine & aid entered the Gaza Strip, in implementation of the agreement announced yesterday for the benefit of civilians in the Strip, including hostages,” Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Dr. Majed Al-Ansari wrote on X.

“Qatar, along with its regional and international partners, continues mediation efforts at the political and humanitarian levels.”

The medication left Doha on Wednesday and headed to Egypt before being transported to Gaza, the ministry previously said.

Osama Hamdan, a Lebanon-based Hamas official, said the agreement was dependent on there being enough medication for Palestinians in Gaza in addition to the Israeli hostages.

Hamas has stipulated that for every box of medication given to the hostages, Palestinians in Gaza must receive 1,000 boxes.

The deal follows calls by relatives of the more than 100 remaining hostages believed to be alive in Gaza for medicine to reach their loved ones.

Hostages in need

It has been more than three months since Hamas fighters attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 250 others hostage. Israel believes 132 hostages are still being held in the strip, 105 of whom are alive.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an advocacy group for the victims’ families, says that each new day in captivity further endangers their lives and health.

At least a third of the hostages have chronic illnesses and require medications, the forum said in a report released last week, adding that, “others suffer from illnesses related to the harsh captivity conditions, which include mental and physical torture.”

However, the Israeli military said it does “not have the ability to guarantee” that medicine will reach the hostages.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the military will work with Qatar to ensure medicine gets to the captives.

“What is important is that this effort happens, and currently the trucks are being checked. They will finish the checks, they will get in (to Gaza) and we need to do everything we can to ensure that the medications will indeed reach where they need to go,” Hagari said.

Spiraling humanitarian crisis

Since the end of a week-long truce in November, Israel has stepped up its military operations in the besieged enclave, where at least 24,400 people have been killed, including more than 10,000 children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Severe shortages of medicine and medical supplies in Gaza have led to operations being performed on children without anesthesia, according to UNICEF and a British surgeon who led an emergency medical team at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza.

Throughout the war, Israel has allowed a limited amount of aid and medicine to enter Gaza but it is a fraction of what is needed, humanitarian groups say.

This week, the United Nations’ emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths said Israel’s war in Gaza had brought famine with “such incredible speed” to the coastal enclave, and that the “great majority” of 400,000 Gazans characterized by UN agencies as at risk of starving “are actually in famine, not just at risk of famine.”

The UN has complained that Israel has been rejecting missions to deliver supplies to northern Gaza.

Nearly 90% of Gaza’s 2.2 million pre-war population has been displaced, according to the UN, while only about a dozen of the enclave’s overwhelmed hospitals remain operational.

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