Feb 9, 2024 - World

Biden sending CIA chief to Egypt in latest push for Gaza hostage deal

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

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 is expected to travel to Cairo next week for meetings with Egyptian, Israeli and Qatari officials about the efforts to launch negotiations over a new deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza, two U.S. and Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: Burns has been President Biden's point person in the efforts to secure a hostage deal and a pause in fighting. Sending him to Cairo puts pressure on Qatari and Egyptian mediators to press Hamas to agree to a reasonable deal.

  • U.S. officials say the White House acknowledges that a hostage deal is the only way to get a ceasefire in Gaza. Biden said in televised remarks on Thursday that he is pushing hard for a deal.

Details: Burns is expected to travel to Egypt next Tuesday. The CIA declined to comment on Burns' travel schedule.

  • Israel is also planning on sending a delegation, though that is conditioned on Egypt's and Qatar's ability to press Hamas to walk back its response to the latest hostage deal proposal, according to an Israeli official.
  • The Israeli delegation is expected to include Mossad chief David Barnea, Shin Bet director Ronen Bar and Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Israel Defense Forces point person for the hostage negotiations.
  • Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Egyptian spy chief Abbas Kamel are also expected to participate.

Driving the news: Israel on Thursday told Egyptian and Qatari mediators that while it rejects most of Hamas' demands in its response to the latest hostage deal proposal, it is ready to launch negotiations based on the original proposal put forth two weeks ago.

  • That proposal was centered on a framework for a three-phase deal that included a six-week ceasefire and the release of a set number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas freeing 35 to 40 Israeli hostages in the first stage.
  • Hamas in its initial response to the plan laid out several demands, including multiple nonstarters for Israel.

U.S. officials, however, have expressed some optimism and said that while there are still major gaps between the parties, Hamas' response provides an opening for negotiations on a new deal.

State of play: A Hamas delegation held talks in Cairo on Thursday with senior Egyptian intelligence officials and discussed the hostage deal and potential ways to move forward, according to statements made by Egyptian and Hamas officials.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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