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CIA’s Burns pushes huge hostage deal in assembly with Mossad counterpart


CIA Director William J. Burns arrived in Qatar on Tuesday for secret conferences with Israel’s spy chief and Qatar’s prime minister geared toward brokering an expansive deal between Israel and Hamas, mentioned three folks conversant in the go to.

Burns is pushing for Hamas and Israel to broaden the main focus of their ongoing hostage negotiations, up to now restricted to ladies and kids, to embody the discharge of males and navy personnel, too.

He’s additionally looking for a longer multiday pause in combating whereas considering the Israeli demand that Hamas launch at the very least 10 folks for daily there’s a break within the struggle, these conversant in the matter mentioned, talking on the situation of anonymity to element delicate discussions.

Crucially, Burns is pushing for the instant launch of American hostages held by Hamas. U.S. officers put the variety of these hostages at eight or 9.

The CIA declined to touch upon the director’s journey, which is stored labeled. A U.S. official mentioned, “Director Burns traveled to Doha for conferences in regards to the Israel-Hamas battle together with continued dialogue on hostages.”

Burns has emerged as the primary U.S. negotiator within the hostage disaster, valued by President Biden for his broad array of contacts throughout the Center East and, specifically, inside Israel’s Mossad intelligence service.

“They hearken to him and extremely respect him,” mentioned an individual conversant in the negotiations.

Burns, a veteran diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, is usually tapped by Biden to deal with the administration’s most vexing challenges, from warning Russia to not use nuclear weapons in Ukraine to negotiating with the Taliban amid the U.S. evacuation disaster in Afghanistan.

Households embraced after Hamas launched a number of Israeli hostages on Nov. 24 as a part of a pause in combating to launch captives in Israel and Gaza. (Video: Hadley Inexperienced/The Washington Publish)

His position within the Israel-Gaza struggle is especially outstanding given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reliance on Mossad chief David Barnea.

“Barnea is the important thing Israeli individual for these negotiations,” mentioned Natan Sachs, an Israel scholar on the Brookings Establishment, a assume tank. “He’s the one licensed to talk on behalf of the prime minister.”

Far outdoors of Netanyahu’s circle of belief is Israel’s intelligence minister, Gila Gamliel, and international minister, Eli Cohen, observers say, making Burns’s conferences together with his counterpart a focus for dealmaking. “Secretary of State Antony Blinken can be the counterpart if the Israeli international minister held any sway within the Cupboard, however he doesn’t,” Sachs mentioned.

The channel between Burns and Barnea was put to make use of earlier this month when the 2 met in Qatar to debate a pause in combating and the outlines of a hostage launch with Qatar’s prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, on Nov. 9.

Hours after the assembly concluded, the White Home introduced that Israel would start four-hour pauses in northern Gaza to permit Palestinians to flee hostilities — a welcome step within the eyes of the White Home however one which fell wanting U.S. requests for multiday pauses.

Qatar, a gas-rich peninsula within the Persian Gulf, has mediated talks between Israel and Hamas because the begin of the battle.

U.S. officers are pushing for an extended string of days with out combating to launch hostages and permit humanitarian support into the enclave. Israeli officers have informed counterparts that the utmost variety of additional days they’re keen to permit is 10 earlier than they search to renew navy operations, mentioned folks conversant in the matter. Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas, and officers are unsure whether or not Israel will be persuaded to again off its 10-day restrict amid the push to launch as many hostages as potential.

Netanyahu, talking over the weekend, vowed to proceed combating after the present section of hostage negotiations. “We are going to return with full power to realize our objectives: the elimination of Hamas; guaranteeing that Gaza doesn’t return to what it was,” he mentioned.

Israel stays open to proposals to incorporate males and navy personnel within the hostage releases, however is insisting that each one remaining youngsters and civilian ladies be launched earlier than any extra offers are made, mentioned an Israeli official conversant in the negotiations.

“It is vitally vital for us to emphasize … that each one remaining ladies and kids in Gaza can be launched earlier than we transfer on to any follow-on settlement,” the official mentioned.

The newest spherical of releases Tuesday introduced the variety of Israeli hostages freed to 61, together with twin nationals, plus 20 international nationals from Thailand and the Philippines, whereas Israel has launched 180 imprisoned Palestinian ladies and youngsters.

The truce agreed to final week was the primary pause in hostilities because the battle started Oct. 7, when Hamas gunmen launched a brutal cross-border assault that killed 1,200 folks and took greater than 240 hostages.

Israel responded with an enormous bombing marketing campaign and floor offensive that has killed greater than 13,300 Palestinians, lots of them youngsters, based on the Gaza Well being Ministry, which cautions that its toll is incomplete. Large sections of the densely populated enclave have been leveled by Israeli bombs and artillery, and Israeli restrictions on meals, gas and consuming water have created a humanitarian disaster.

Whereas combating has been paused as part of the hostage launch deal, support businesses have raced to enhance deliveries to Gaza.

U.S. officers are involved that if Hamas and Israel fail to barter a continuation, support deliveries will once more falter. One goal Burns has in Qatar is to discover what sort of format or mechanism will be established to safe the movement of support outdoors the hostage negotiations framework, mentioned folks conversant in the matter.

There may be settlement amongst all sides that the movement of support into Gaza shouldn’t be ample, however U.S. officers say the primary problem is safety and logistical points that don’t enable for greater than 200 vans per day. One potential resolution is to reinforce capability on the Rafah border crossing, which separates Gaza and Egypt, by changing outdated safety tools.

Steve Hendrix in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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