Feb 21, 2024 - World

CIA chief expected in Paris for Gaza hostage talks as U.S. pushes for deal before Ramadan

Pictures of some of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks are plastered on a street board in Tel Aviv during a protest calling for their release on February 10, 2024

Pictures of some of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the Oct. 7 attacks are plastered on a street board in Tel Aviv during a protest calling for their release. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

CIA director Bill Burns is expected to travel to Paris on Friday to hold talks with Qatari, Egyptian and Israeli officials about the efforts to reach a deal to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, a source familiar with the issue and an Israeli official said.

Why it matters: Biden administration officials say they want to try and get a deal before the start of Ramadan in less than three weeks in order to ensure there is a temporary ceasefire in place during the Muslim holy month. But major gaps between Israel and Hamas remain.

  • The current proposal the Biden administration is pushing would lead to at least a six-week pause in fighting.
  • The main sticking point centers on differences over the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released and how the list will be determined for the first stage of what could be a three-phase deal.

Driving the news: A senior Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials over the possible hostage deal.

  • Brett McGurk, President Biden's top Middle East adviser, met in Cairo on Wednesday with Abbas Kamel, the director of the Egyptian intelligence service.
  • A U.S. official said after the meeting that all the parties are working towards a hostage deal. "We see value in continuing the discussions," the official said.

State of play: Israeli Minister Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that "there are initial signs that point to a possibility of making progress towards a deal."

  • A senior Israeli official said that from what Israel knows, Hamas provided Egypt with an "oral response" to the Israeli position and agreed to "minor adjustments" in its demands. But the official said the new Hamas response doesn't point to a breakthrough.
  • Hamas has not publicly detailed this week's talks in Cairo.
  • The senior Israeli official said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still hasn't signed off on sending an Israeli delegation to Paris for the Friday meeting. The official stressed that some members of the negotiation team will not go to the meeting if Netanyahu orders them only to listen and not negotiate, as he did for the last meeting attended by an Israeli delegation earlier this month.

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