Jan 25, 2024 - World

CIA chief to meet Qatari PM and heads of Mossad, Egyptian intel for hostage talks

Protesters in Tel Aviv lift placards during a rally for supporters and relatives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images

Protesters in Tel Aviv lift placards during a rally for supporters and relatives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP via Getty Images

CIA director Bill Burns will meet with the head of Israel's Mossad, the Egyptian intelligence chief and the Qatari prime minister in Europe in the coming days to discuss efforts to reach a deal to secure the release of hostages held in Gaza, U.S. officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: A senior Israeli official said the meeting is crucial to the efforts to reach a breakthrough in the talks over a new deal that would include a two-month pause in return for the release of all hostages held by Hamas.

  • The official said Israel hopes the meeting will encourage both Qatari and Egyptian mediators to put more pressure on Hamas and go more into the details of the possible deal to find compromises.
  • U.S. officials have acknowledged that reaching a deal might be the only path that could lead to a ceasefire in Gaza.

The big picture: The expected meeting will include Burns, Mossad director David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

  • Israeli Shin Bet security service director Ronen Bar and Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Israel Defense Forces's point person for the hostage issue, will also participate in the meeting, Israeli officials say.

What they're saying: A senior Israeli official who is directly involved in the talks said the impression is that there's a willingness on all sides to get a deal and momentum has been created.

  • But the official said that Hamas must recognize that Israel won't agree to the militant group's demand that it commit to ending the war as part of a hostage deal. The official also said that Hamas' demand regarding the number of Palestinian prisoners it wants to be released as part of a deal is too high.
  • "It is the mediators' role to make this clear to Hamas," the official said. "Each of them is doing this in a different style. We would want to see them not only as facilitators but as mediators who are more active and propose creative solutions."

Go deeper: Qatar calls Bibi's criticism of Doha's mediation efforts "destructive" to hostage talks

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