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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

CIA and Mossad chiefs said to hold talks with Qataris on Israeli hostage deal

By Julian E. Barnes and Edward Wong

The CIA director and the chief of Israel’s spy agency met with Qatari officials in Doha on Thursday for discussions on a deal to release some hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a short pause in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, according to a U.S. official and another official briefed on the discussions.

William Burns, the CIA director, has been traveling throughout the Middle East for talks with intelligence officials and political leaders about the Israel-Hamas war and the issue of the hostages. Qatar, which hosts Hamas’ political leadership in Doha, has been a mediator in the hostage talks.

Discussions have been underway for Hamas to release a small number of hostages, including some Americans. Proposals have shifted in recent days, but the discussions Wednesday and early Thursday revolved around a proposal for Hamas to release 10 to 15 prisoners. They would include some Americans and other foreign nationals taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, as well as Israeli women, civilians and children, an official said.

Hamas has asked for a three-day pause in the fighting across Gaza.

On Thursday, Burns had a group meeting with David Barnea, the chief of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, and Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, the officials briefed on the meeting said.

Burns also had separate meetings with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and with the country’s intelligence chief, an official said.

Burns did not meet directly with Hamas officials, according to people briefed on the talks.

One official described the talks as positive and said good progress had been made.

While U.S. officials have not confirmed details of the proposal, they have publicly endorsed the idea of releasing hostages in exchange for a temporary pause in hostilities.

In recent days, U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in the Middle East last week, have intensified their push for “humanitarian pauses.”

U.S. officials and others briefed on the discussions said Hamas had previously made an offer to release a group of hostages. Those conversations took place right before the Israeli military entered Gaza. But Israeli officials doubted Hamas’ sincerity and went ahead with their ground operation.

U.S. officials said discussions continued even after Israeli forces surrounded Gaza City.

Qatar has been deeply involved in the hostage negotiations. The political leaders of Hamas have offices in Doha and live part-time there and part-time in Turkey. The Qatari government has regular discussions with Israel, Hamas and the United States.

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