Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich today accused Qatar, one of the major players in negotiations with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, of being “largely responsible” for the October 7 attack.

“Qatar is a country that supports and finances terrorism,” he said. The emirate “is the sponsor of Hamas and is largely responsible for the massacres committed by Hamas against Israeli citizens,” says Smotrich, leader of the far-right party “Religious Zionism”, in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

“One thing is clear: Qatar will not be involved in any way in what happens in Gaza after the war” he also underlined.

Debate has intensified in Israel over how best to secure the release of hostages still held by Hamas as Israeli military operations in the southern Gaza Strip intensify.

Qatar, Egypt and the US are brokering a new truce that would allow the release of hostages still held by Hamas and allow more humanitarian aid to flow into the Palestinian enclave.

Yesterday, Wednesday, the Israeli TV network Channel 12 broadcast an audio excerpt of the Israeli Prime Minister’s statements in a meeting he had with the families of the hostages, in which Benjamin Netanyahu considers Doha’s role “problematic”. “I have no illusions about them,” he declares. They “have the means to put pressure (on Hamas). Why? Because they finance them.”

Reacting, Qatar expressed its “outrage”, calling the comments “irresponsible and harmful to efforts aimed at saving innocent lives”.

Doha hosts the political leadership of Hamas and has in recent years provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the population of Gaza, where Hamas has been in power since 2007.

The war between Israel and Hamas was sparked by an unprecedented attack by its militants on Israeli soil on October 7, which killed more than 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on official figures.

About 250 people were abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip, of whom about 100 were released in a swap with Palestinian prisoners during a truce agreed in late November. According to the same count, 132 hostages are still being held in the Gaza Strip, of whom 28 are believed to be dead.

Israel has vowed to “eliminate” Hamas and has launched an extensive military operation that has killed 25,700 Palestinians, most of them women, children and teenagers, according to Hamas’ health ministry.