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Qatar 'appalled' at criticism by Israeli prime minister

US deplores deadly attack on UN shelter in Gaza

By AFP

January 25, 2024 11:05 AM


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Qatar said Wednesday it was "appalled" by remarks attributed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was allegedly caught on tape calling the emirate's role as mediator in the Gaza war "problematic".

At a meeting this week with the families of hostages held in Gaza, Netanyahu blamed Qatar for financing Hamas and said he was upset at a US decision to extend the presence of a military base in the Gulf state, according to Israeli news outlet Channel 12.

Qatar, along with Egypt and the United States, was one of the mediators of a weeklong truce deal in November that led to the release of 105 hostages.

"You don’t hear me thanking Qatar... who are essentially no different from the United Nations or Red Cross, and even more problematic. I have no illusions with regards to them," Netanyahu purportedly says in a recording obtained by Channel 12.

"They have the means to put pressure (on Hamas). And why? Because they finance them," he continues, adding that he was "very angry" at Washington's decision to renew its base agreement with Qatar.

In a statement posted on the social media platform X, Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said his country was "appalled by the alleged remarks attributed to the Israeli Prime Minister".

"These remarks if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising," the statement said.

Qatar is still involved in talks aimed at securing a new hostage deal, and Ansari said Netanyahu's remarks were detrimental to those efforts.

"If the reported remarks are found to be true, the Israeli PM would only be obstructing and undermining the mediation process, for reasons that appear to serve his political career instead of prioritising saving innocent lives, including Israeli hostages," the statement said

It added that Netanyahu should focus on freeing the hostages rather than "concerning himself with Qatar"s strategic relations with the United States".

Qatar is home to the regional headquarters of the Pentagon's Central Command at the al-Udeid Air Base, and permits regular shore visits by US naval vessels patrolling the Gulf region.

It also hosts the political leadership of Hamas and in recent years has sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Gaza Strip, which has been controlled by the Palestinian Islamist movement since 2007.

US deplores deadly attack on UN shelter in Gaza

The White House has condemned Wednesday's deadly shelling of a UN shelter in southern Gaza, reiterating its position that Israel has a "responsibility to protect civilians" as it prosecutes its war with Hamas.

The Gaza director of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said earlier Wednesday that two tank shells had hit a building sheltering 800 people in the city of Khan Yunis, with reports that nine people had died and 75 more were injured.

"We are gravely concerned by reports today of strikes hitting a UNRWA facility -- with subsequent reports of fires in the building -- in a neighborhood in southern Gaza where more than 30,000 displaced Palestinians had reportedly been sheltering," a spokesperson for the White House's National Security Council, Adrienne Watson, said in a statement.

She called the loss of innocent life a tragedy and deaths and injury of children during the three-month war "heartbreaking."

While the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel to defend itself against "Hamas terrorists who hide among the civilian population," Watson said, "Israel retains a responsibility to protect civilians, including, humanitarian personnel and sites."

The NSC official also stressed that President Joe Biden remained committed to "working to increase life-saving humanitarian assistance into Gaza and to bring home all of the hostages held there."

The State Department also deplored the attacks on the UN facility and stressed that humanitarian workers must be protected so that they can keep providing lifesaving assistance to civilians.

The Israeli army said Tuesday it had "encircled" Khan Yunis, Gaza's main southern city which has become the epicenter of recent fighting.

The attack on the shelter in southern Gaza's biggest city sparked international condemnation, while the United Nations slammed a "blatant disregard" for the rules of war.


AFP


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