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In Gaza war, Qatar revisits role as regional mediator

In Gaza war, Qatar revisits role as regional mediator

After the release Friday of two Americans held by Hamas, officials in Israel distributed images of the women walking hand-in-hand to freedom with an Israeli envoy, and U.S. authorities shared photos of the pair talking by phone to President Biden. The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar was where it preferred to be: a bit out of the picture but very much in the mix.

Over the years, the tiny, energy-rich state has leveraged its extensive diplomatic relationships — including with militant groups like Hamas and the Taliban, and U.S. adversaries including Russia — to negotiate delicate issues during international conflicts.

The release of the Americans, Judith Raanan and her daughter Natalie Raanan, of Evanston, Ill., marked the third time in two months that Qatar’s mediation has played a role in facilitating negotiations between bitter adversaries. In September, Qatar helped secure the release of five Americans held by Iran. Earlier this month, Qatar was in the middle of an effort to free Ukrainian children held by Russia.

How was Qatar involved?

The Raanans were the first of more than 200 captives believed held by Hamas since the militant group’s deadly attack on Israel two weeks ago. Hamas said in a statement that they were released at the request of Qatari mediators for “humanitarian reasons.”

The mediation that led to the release of the Ranaans was part of an effort Qatar said it hoped would “lead to the release of all civilian hostages from every nationality” held by Hamas, Majid Ansari, a spokesman for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement Friday. It came after “days of continuous communication between all parties involved,” he added, saying the effort aimed at “de-escalating the current crisis.”

Why does Qatar have leverage?

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