CIA Director William Burns is in Qatar on Tuesday to hold secret talks with the Israeli intelligence chief and the Qatari prime minister over ways to broker a broader agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization over hostage releases, The Washington Post reported.
Burns wants the parties to expand the scope of hostage negotiations with Hamas to include the release of men, military personnel and the remaining Americans held by Hamas, the Post reported, citing three U.S. officials. He also hopes to convince the parties to agree to a longer multi-day ceasefire in line with Israel’s previous promise to prolong the pause in exchange for 10 hostages released each day, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to detail sensitive talks.
So far, hostage releases have been limited to women, teenagers and children.
“Director Burns traveled to Doha for meetings about the Israel-Hamas conflict including continued discussion on hostages,” an unnamed U.S. official told the Post. The CIA would not comment because Burns’ trip is classified.
Qatar has served as the intermediary in previous negotiations between Israel and Hamas that led to the five-day ceasefire beginning Nov. 24. The parties agreed Monday to an additional two-day pause in fighting with the intent to secure the release of more Israeli and foreign hostages.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with his Qatari counterpart on Tuesday, the State Department said.
However, Burns has become President Joe Biden’s go-to tool for accomplishing diplomatically sensitive missions, according to the Post. His large ledger of contacts in the Middle East, including within Israel’s Mossad foreign intelligence service, has made him a valuable asset.
“They listen to him and highly respect him,” a person familiar with the negotiations told the Post.
Mossad chief David Barnea has served an equivalent role for Israel, with Barnea seen as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-hand man, according to the Post.
“Barnea is the key Israeli person for these negotiations,” Natan Sachs, an Israel scholar at the Brookings Institution, told the Post. “He’s the one authorized to speak on behalf of the prime minister.”
The National Security Council did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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