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Medicine for hostages, aid for civilians enter Gaza in Qatar-France deal

Ayala Harel holds a placard depicting her uncle as demonstrators attend a 24-hour protest in Tel Aviv on Sunday, calling for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza and marking 100 days since the Oct. 7 attack. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)
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TEL AVIV — Qatar’s air force on Wednesday began moving lifesaving medicine toward Israeli hostages in Gaza, a mission made possible by a rare diplomatic breakthrough, mediated by Qatar and France, in Israel’s war on Hamas.

Critical aid is also to be delivered to civilians in the enclave as part of the deal.

The Qatari Foreign Ministry said two air force planes had landed in the Egyptian city of Arish — some 30 miles from the Rafah crossing into Gaza — and later that aid was being delivered to Israeli hostages and Gazan civilians. An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the government, confirmed the deal was being executed.

The agreement was reached with the participation of David Barnea, chief of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, who has been in Qatar to discuss “the issue of supplying medicines to the Israeli hostages,” the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday night. The medicines were purchased in France according to a list prepared by Israel, the office said, and Qatar would be responsible for the delivery to their “final destination.”

“Israel insists that all the medicines reach their destination,” the office said.

Why Gaza keeps losing communications

The deal is to include the transfer of medicines to the most vulnerable areas for civilians in Gaza, where 15 hospitals are partially functioning and the health system is collapsing as the fighting rages on.

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross called the deal “a much-needed moment of relief for the families of the hostages and the health facilities in Gaza.” The organization, which is to help transfer the aid inside Gaza, said it had “been urging the parties and those who have influence to ensure that medicines get into the hands of all those who need them.”

The precise mechanism for getting the medicines to the hostages was not immediately clear. Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk said the delivery included 140 types of medicine that would be taken by the Red Cross to four hospitals in the Gaza Strip and then distributed onward, including to hostages.

Among the terms of the deal, he said on X, were that Israel would not inspect the packages before they entered Gaza and that “for every box of medicine” for hostages, the shipments would include “another thousand for our people.”

Abu Marzouk said that France had asked to deliver the aid but that Hamas refused, “due to our lack of confidence in the French government, its position in support of the Israeli occupation, and its hindering of our people’s aspirations for freedom and return.”

According to the office of French President Emmanuel Macron, the medicine was to be delivered to Rafah and turned over to the Red Cross, French media reported. There was no mention of it going to hospitals first. The packages contain enough medicine for three months, according to the reports, which said French authorities hoped to facilitate future deliveries.

Philippe Lalliot, director of the French Foreign Ministry Crisis and Support Center, said that France transferred the medicines to Qatar on Saturday in diplomatic suitcases. He told France Inter radio Tuesday that they would be taken to 45 hostages, none of whom are French nationals.

Lalliot said French authorities were approached months ago by families of the hostages, who provided a list of 85 who needed medication. Some on the list were released during a pause in fighting in late November or have since died in captivity.

Lalliot said the mission, under Macron’s direction, did not involve direct contact between French officials and Hamas.