Qatar is engaged in high-level discussions with Hamas to deliver vital prescription medicines to Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip at the same time it is making progress with Israel about allowing more medicine into the enclave for Gazan civilians, officials said.
More than 120 hostages have now been held in Gaza for nearly 100 days and many suffer from health conditions that require regular medical care, including cancer and diabetes. Their families have grown increasingly concerned as the war enters its fourth month and as hostages released in late November share harrowing accounts of their captivity.
Family members of the hostages raised the need for medicines during a meeting in Doha with the prime minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Adbdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, according to Daniel Lifshitz, the grandson of one of the hostages.
An official familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to their sensitivity, confirmed the meeting. He said that negotiators were discussing the types of medications needed, how much was needed and how to deliver them. Discussions were underway with international organizations that could help deliver them, he added.
Qatar has become a key mediator between Hamas and Israel — who aren’t speaking directly — in negotiations over the hostages. The talks on medical aid are separate from wider negotiations on another hostage release, which have not yielded an agreement.
A senior Israeli official, who was not authorized to talk to the news media and spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that talks on medicines for the hostages and for Gazan civilians had made progress. Husam Badran, a senior Hamas official, said in a text message that the group was actively discussing efforts related to delivering medications “with great positivity.”
The official briefed on the talks said Israel was showing willingness to allow the delivery of medications to Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Only 15 hospitals in Gaza remain at least partially functional amid Israeli military attacks on the enclave, according to the United Nations, and shortages of medical supplies are severe.
Israel has been permitting trucks carrying medicine to enter Gaza, but United Nations officials say that those supplies have failed to meet the needs of the residents.
Waleed Abu Hatab, the director of maternal medicine at the Nasser Medical Center in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis, said he was dealing with steep shortages of milk formula, anesthetics and vaccines, making it difficult to provide adequate care to newborns.
“If this situation continues, I’m worried many won’t survive,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re dealing with an impossible situation.”
Israelis advocating for the hostages’ return said they would be enormously relieved if Hamas permitted the delivery of medicines. “All of the hostages’ lives are at risk, especially those who need medical treatment,” said Dr. Hagai Levine, the chairman of the medical team with the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an Israeli group. “It’s my wish that they will finally get the treatment that they deserve.”
Mr. Lifshitz, the grandson of Oded Lifshitz, an 83-year-old Israeli journalist and peace activist who is being held in Gaza, said he was at the recent talks in Qatar where families brought up the issues. He said he has been overcome with worry about his grandfather’s health situation since he was taken hostage.
“The fact that so many hostages have been denied the medications they need is a death sentence,” he said. “They should have received what they needed on the first day.”