Mar 21, 2024 - World

CIA chief will meet Qatari PM, heads of Egyptian, Israeli intel for hostage talks

CIA Director William Burns testifies during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide Threats" on Thursday, March 10, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

CIA director William Burns testifies during the Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on March 10, 2022. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

CIA director Bill Burns will travel to Doha on Friday to join negotiations for a deal to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in return for a temporary ceasefire, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

Why it matters: Burns' participation in the talks with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, and Mossad director David Barnea is an attempt to give the negotiations a push at a critical moment, an Israeli official and a source briefed on the issue said.

  • "There is slow progress and the gaps are beginning to be narrowed," a senior Israeli official said. "At the same time, there is no breakthrough yet. We still have a long way to go, and there will be points of crisis down the road."

Driving the news: Israel and Hamas began on Monday to negotiate the details of a possible deal to release Israeli hostages and for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, after months of discussing broad principles.

  • Both Israel and Hamas are under intense pressure to reach an agreement that would release the hostages and begin a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed.
  • The current proposal being negotiated could lead to a six-week ceasefire in Gaza and to the release of 40 hostages — women, female soldiers, men over the age of 50, and men in critical medical condition — in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

What they're saying: Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday told al-Hadath news channel during his trip to Saudi Arabia that Israel and Hamas are getting closer to a deal.

  • "I think the gaps are narrowing, and I think an agreement is very much possible. ... The negotiators are working on that right now. But I believe it's very much doable, and it's very much necessary," he said.
  • Blinken met with Kamel, who is a mediator in the hostage talks, on Thursday in Cairo. On Friday, Blinken will travel to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Israeli war Cabinet.

The big picture: The Biden administration is under external and domestic pressure to restrain Israel and views a hostage deal as the only path to a ceasefire in Gaza, where the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.

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