RAFAH, Gaza Strip — A shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Hamas arrived in Gaza on Wednesday, part of a France- and Qatar- mediated deal that marked the first agreement between Israel and the militant group since a weeklong cease-fire in November.
The deal could bring respite to some of the roughly 100 hostages who remain in captivity, as well as to Palestinians in Gaza in desperate need of aid. But fighting still rages in many parts of the beleaguered enclave, and an end to the war — or the release of the hostages — seems nowhere in sight.
Qatar's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Majed al-Ansari, announced late Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter, that the shipment had crossed into Gaza, without saying when or how the medicine would be distributed.
"Over the past few hours, medicine & aid entered the Gaza Strip, in implementation of the agreement announced yesterday for the benefit of civilians in the Strip, including hostages," he wrote.
A senior Hamas official said that for every box provided for the hostages, 1,000 boxes of medicine would be sent in for Palestinians. The deal also includes the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza residents.
The agreement came 100 days into the conflict and as Palestinian militants are still putting up resistance across Gaza in the face of one of the deadliest military campaigns in recent history. More than 24,000 Palestinians have been killed. Some 85 percent of the narrow coastal territory's 2.3 million people have fled their homes, and the United Nations says a quarter of the population is starving.
Israel has vowed to dismantle Hamas to ensure it can never repeat an attack like the one on Oct. 7 that triggered the war. Militants burst through Israel's border defenses and stormed through several communities that day, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and capturing around 250.
Israel also has promised to win the return of the hostages still held inside Gaza.
Hamas has said it will not release any more hostages until there is a permanent cease-fire, something Israel and the United States, its top ally, have ruled out.
Aid bound for hostages,
The last deal in late November between Israel and Hamas brought a temporary truce in exchange for the release of more than 100 hostages, mostly women and children, as well as freedom for dozens of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
A Qatari official said the medicine would be delivered to the hostages by the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory. It was not immediately clear when the drugs would be delivered, or how the handover would be verified. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts.
France said it took months to organize the shipment of the medicines. Qatar, which has long served as a mediator with Hamas, helped broker the deal that will provide three months' worth of medication for chronic illnesses for 45 of the hostages, as well as other medicine and vitamins. Several older men are among the remaining hostages.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said in a post on X that the International Committee of the Red Cross will deliver all the medicines, including the ones destined for the hostages, to hospitals serving all parts of Gaza. The ICRC declined to comment.
Senior U.N. officials have warned that Gaza faces widespread famine and disease if more aid is not allowed in.
Israel completely sealed off Gaza after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack and only relented under U.S. pressure. It says there are now no limits on the entry of humanitarian aid and that U.N. agencies could reduce the delays by providing more workers and trucks.
But U.N. officials say aid delivery is hobbled by the opening of too few border crossings, a slow vetting process and fighting throughout the territory — all of which is largely under Israel's control. / AP