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US, Israeli intelligence chiefs to discuss Gaza hostage deal -sources

families of hostages and supporters protest against the delivery of humanitarian aid to gaza, in kerem shalom
A protestor tries to go through a military line as families of hostages and supporters protest against the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, demanding immediate release of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Kerem Shalom, Israel, January 25, 2024

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns and his Israeli counterpart will meet with Qatari officials in coming days for talks on a second potential Gaza hostage deal, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Burns and the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, David Barnea, will meet with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Europe this weekend, one official briefed on the meeting told Reuters.

Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel will also participate, the second source said.

The Biden administration has been trying to facilitate the release of the more than 100 remaining hostages taken during Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which prompted the start of a war in Gaza that is now in its fourth month.

The U.S. and Israeli intelligence chiefs have previously met with Qatari and Egyptian officials, helping to broker a short-lived truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed.

Burns “has been… involved in helping us with the hostage deal that was in place and trying to help us pursue another one,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters traveling with U.S. President Joe Biden aboard Air Force One, referring specific questions to the agency.

The CIA, which has a policy of not disclosing the director’s travel, declined to comment on the meeting, first reported by the Washington Post.

U.S. ally Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas, unleashing a torrent of strikes that have flattened most of Gaza and killed at least 25,700 people, Palestinian health officials say.

Hamas said on Thursday said it would abide by any possible ruling by the International Court of Justice calling for a ceasefire as long as Israel reciprocates.

The Biden administration has long said it backs a temporary pause in the fighting, which could also allow in more humanitarian aid, but that it does not back a ceasefire.

Following the planned weekend talks, Qatar’s Al Thani is expected to be in Washington next week. On Monday, he is scheduled to speak at the Atlantic Council, according to the think tank’s website.

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