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Qatar negotiators 'hopeful' of more Hamas hostage releases

DOHA, Qatar — Qatari negotiators playing a lead role in efforts to free hostages seized by Hamas from Israel are hopeful of securing more releases, a Qatari foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Gulf state has been engaged in intense diplomacy behind the scenes and secured the release of four hostages held by the Palestinian militants following their October 7 attack on Israel.

Majed al-Ansari said Qatar's negotiators were "hopeful for further releases" with talks ongoing with Israel and Hamas.

There was "more openness on political will between the two sides" after the release of two elderly Israeli women on Monday night, the spokesman told AFP.

But Ansari, who also serves as an adviser to Qatar's Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, cautioned that amid escalating violence in Gaza there was "more difficulty on the logistics of getting people out".

Israel has been left reeling after Hamas militants stormed across the Gaza border on October 7 in a rampage that killed more than 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials.

The Islamists also snatched more than 220 hostages, taking them back to Gaza.

The attack, the worst in Israel's history, prompted a ferocious Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian territory which Gaza's Hamas-controlled health ministry says has killed 5,791 people.

Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, were freed by Hamas late on Monday. The release of the two Israelis comes three days after that of an American woman and her teenage daughter.

Qatar has open channels of communication with Hamas and has hosted the militants' political office since 2012 with the blessing of wealthy emirate's close ally the United States.

Ansari said Hamas' bureau in Doha was communicating "effectively" with members in Gaza and the militants had expressed their willingness to release hostages regardless of their nationalities.

Qatar has provided financial aid to the Gaza Strip for years, which officials in Doha have said is coordinated with Israel, the United Nations and the United States. 

On Tuesday, Qatar's emir criticised Israel's backers saying they had given it "free licence to kill" in its war with Hamas.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad