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Qatar PM says re-evaluating Israel-Hamas mediation role

Asia
 Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman. [AFP]

Qatar is reassessing its role as a mediator between Israel and Hamas after suffering criticism, its prime minister said on Wednesday.

"Qatar is in the process of a complete re-evaluation of its role," Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani told a Doha news conference.

"There is exploitation and abuse of the Qatari role," he said, adding that Qatar had been the victim of "point-scoring" by "politicians who are trying to conduct election campaigns by slighting the State of Qatar".

Qatar, with the United States and Egypt, has been engaged in weeks of behind-the-scenes talks aiming to secure a truce in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

The mediators had hoped to secure a ceasefire before the start of Ramadan, but progress repeatedly faltered without any cessation of hostilities during the Muslim holy month, which ended last week.

Earlier Wednesday, Sheikh Mohammed said negotiations had stalled.

"We are going through a sensitive stage with some stalling, and we are trying as much as possible to address this stalling," the Qatari premier said.

Qatar, which has hosted Hamas' political leadership since 2012 with the blessing of the US, has rebuffed frequent criticism of its mediation from Israel including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Tuesday the Qatari embassy in Washington issued a statement rebuking Democratic lawmaker Steny Hoyer over his calls for Qatar to exert pressure on Hamas to secure a hostage release.

Fears have grown of the months-long war in Gaza spilling over into a regional conflict after Iran's first-ever direct attack on its arch-foe Israel this weekend.

The Qatari premier said Doha had "warned from the beginning of this war against the expansion of the circle of conflict, and today we see conflicts on different fronts".

"We constantly call on the international community to assume its responsibilities and stop this war," he added, saying the people of Gaza faced "siege and starvation" with humanitarian aid being used as a "tool for political blackmail".

The war began when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel that resulted in about 1,170 deaths, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's military has waged a retaliatory offensive against Hamas that has killed 33,899 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Palestinian militants seized about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages during the October 7 attack on Israel, but dozens were released during a week-long truce in November.

Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

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