Feb 15, 2024 - World

CIA chief visits Israel to discuss Gaza hostage talks with Bibi and Mossad

CIA Director William Burns in September 2023.

CIA Director William Burns in September 2023. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

CIA director Bill Burns arrived in Israel on Thursday to meet with Mossad chief David Barnea and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the recent hostage negotiations, per two sources with knowledge of the issue.

Why it matters: The Biden administration, as well as Qatari and Egyptian mediators appear to want to create momentum for the negotiations for a new hostage deal. But Netanyahu declined to send an Israeli delegation to Egypt for follow-up talks after a critical meeting in Cairo earlier this week ended without a major breakthrough.

  • Netanyahu blamed Hamas' demand that thousands of Palestinian prisoners be released as part of any deal. The issue remains the main sticking point in the talks. The Israeli prime minister believes that only a very tough Israeli position could lead to a deal, two Israeli officials previously told Axios.

State of play: Tuesday's meeting in Cairo included Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Barnea and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

  • While the meeting didn't produce a breakthrough, an Israeli source briefed on the discussions said progress was made in understanding the gaps that must be closed in order to enter into negotiations that could lead to a deal.
  • Burns arrived in Israel after a quick visit to Doha where he met Qatari leaders and discussed the latest hostage deal proposal, a source with direct knowledge told Axios.

The big picture: President Biden's strategy for the Gaza war is largely dependent on getting a hostage deal and pause in the fighting that will allow the delivery of crucial humanitarian aid and time to work on day-after diplomatic solutions.

Go deeper: U.S. expects Israel to adhere to commitment to get U.S.-funded flour to Gaza, Sullivan says

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

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