Apr 13, 2022 - World

U.S. asked Israel for help locating American journalist Austin Tice

A portrait of U.S. journalist Austin Tice is seen as his parents, Marc and Debra Tice, give a press conference in Beirut on Dec. 4, 2018. Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

State Department hostage envoy Roger Carstens asked Israel for help locating American journalist Austin Tice, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012, during a recent visit to Israel, two Israeli sources tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: Last week, Carstens met with Israel's hostage team, which includes negotiators and experts from agencies including military intelligence and Mossad. Like the U.S, Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Syria, but Israel's intelligence services monitor the neighboring country closely.

  • Carstens asked the Israeli team to assist with intelligence gathering and for new ideas on how to proceed with the case.

The backstory: Tice, a freelance journalist who worked for outlets including McClatchy, the Washington Post and CBS, is one of the longest-held and most high-profile American hostages overseas. The U.S. says the Syrian government is responsible for Tice's fate, though the Assad regime has never acknowledged holding him.

  • The Trump administration also requested Israel's assistance when Robert O'Brien was hostage envoy from 2018 to 2019, the Israeli sources say, but the effort produced no progress and very little new information.
  • Efforts to bring Tice home have yielded virtually no progress. This August will mark 10 years since his kidnapping, and the U.S. government has made no recent updates as to where in Syria he might be or whether he is known to be alive.

Flashback: Former President Trump made extensive efforts to free Tice and even sent a letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in March 2020 offering to speak directly.

  • Trump also sent CIA officials and other envoys to Damascus for meetings with Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk about Tice’s case, also without success.

What they're saying: "Austin’s release and return home are long overdue. We call on Syria to help release Austin Tice and every U.S. citizen held hostage in Syria," a State Department spokesperson told me, adding, "We will pursue all avenues to bring Austin home."

  • The spokesperson said Secretary of State Tony Blinken is personally dedicated to seeking the safe release of U.S. hostages and wrongful detainees and he believes it is within Assad’s power to free Tice or persuade his captors to let him go.
  • The Tice family declined to comment.
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