Updated Dec 18, 2023 - World

CIA chief met Israeli, Qatari officials for new hostage deal talks

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a House Select Committee on Intelligence hearing concerning worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill March 9, 2023

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a House Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Mar. 9, 2023. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA director Bill Burns met Monday with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the head of Israel's Mossad spy agency in Warsaw to discuss a potential new deal to secure the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, two U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: Burns played a key role in brokering the previous deal that led to the release of more than 100 hostages last month, among them several Americans.

  • Israeli officials say Burns' continued involvement in negotiations is critically important to striking any new deal.
  • The CIA declined to comment on Burns' schedule.

Driving the news: The meeting in Warsaw took place three days after the Qatari prime minister and Mossad director David Barnea met in another European capital to try to relaunch indirect discussions between Israel and Hamas that are being mediated by Qatar.

  • Israeli officials say they expect it will be more difficult to agree on the terms of a potential new deal this time around. Israel's military operation in Gaza is now centered on putting pressure on Hamas' leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar and Hamas is seeking a ceasefire, leaving little room for negotiations.
  • In recent days, several Hamas officials said publicly that they will relaunch negotiations over a new hostage deal only after Israel stops its military operation in Gaza.

Context: On Friday, the Israeli Defense Forces announced three Israeli hostages were mistakenly killed in Gaza by IDF soldiers. The incident is putting further pressure on Israel to come to an agreement with Hamas to release the more than 130 hostages still held in Gaza.

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