WASHINGTON (Agencies): In a discreet move, the United States and Qatar have reportedly inked a deal to prolong the stay of American troops at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base, according to unnamed US officials cited by CNN. The agreement ensures that US forces will continue to operate from the base, situated in the desert southwest of Doha, for at least another decade.

Al Udeid, the largest US military installation in the Middle East since 2003, can accommodate up to 10,000 servicemen and is also utilized by the Qatari and British air forces. The deal was concluded amid increasing scrutiny of Qatar for hosting senior Hamas leaders.

Qatari officials defended their position by stating that the Palestinian armed group Hamas was permitted to establish a political office in Qatar in 2012 at the request of then-US President Barack Obama. The broadcaster highlighted that the extension of the American presence at Al Udeid underscores Washington’s dependence on the small Gulf nation, which has been instrumental in negotiating the release of US captives held by Hamas.

The US has supported Israel during its military operation in Gaza, initiated in response to a Hamas attack on October 7, which resulted in approximately 1,200 fatalities and 240 hostages. However, US President Joe Biden has criticized the Israel Defence Forces for their “indiscriminate” bombing of the Palestinian enclave, warning that Israel could lose international backing due to such tactics. The Palestinian enclave’s health ministry reports that the death toll from the Israeli attacks on Gaza has exceeded 22,000.

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