US said surprised by Israeli statement on talks resuming

After Mossad chief’s trip, Israeli official says hostage talks to resume next week

David Barnea, CIA director and Qatari PM agreed during Paris meeting to hold negotiations on ‘new proposals’ for truce deal between Israel and Hamas

Mossad chief David Barnea at a Memorial Day ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, May 12, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Mossad chief David Barnea at a Memorial Day ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, May 12, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Negotiations for a truce in Gaza and the release of hostages held there by Hamas will resume next week, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel after Mossad chief David Barnea returned to Israel on Saturday following a meeting in Paris with top US and Qatari mediators.

According to the official, Barnea discussed “building a foundation” for the resumption of talks with CIA Director William Burns and Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

At the end of the meeting, the official said the three agreed to restart talks next week on “new proposals led by the mediators Egypt and Qatar, with active involvement of the US.”

During the Paris talks, Barnea presented Burns and al-Thani with Israel’s latest proposal and was briefed by the CIA chief on possible solutions for unspecified matters of contention in past rounds of talks, the official said.

The war cabinet is expected to convene Sunday evening to discuss the latest efforts to free the hostages, according to Hebrew media reports.

There was no official response from Hamas, though a source in the terror group told the Walla news site that it won’t resume negotiations until Israel agrees to end the war in Gaza.

Egyptian intelligence director Abbas Kamel, who has represented Cairo in previous rounds, did not attend the Paris meeting, but Egyptian representatives are expected to participate in an additional meeting next week.

CIA chief William Burns, Egyptian intel chief Abbas Kamel, Mossad chief David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. (Collage/AP/AFP)

Despite the Israeli official’s statement Saturday, sources quoted by Kan and Walla said no date was agreed on for the resumption of talks, with the latter outlet saying the Biden administration was surprised by the announcement.

“We are working on an immediate ceasefire in Gaza that will bring the hostages home,” US President Joe Biden told graduating cadets at West Point on Saturday, adding that his administration was engaged in “urgent diplomacy” to do so.

The efforts to again revive the talks come weeks after the previous round of negotiations collapsed, with the sides unable to bridge the gap on the fundamental issue: Hamas is looking for a hostage deal that permanently ends the war triggered by its October 7 onslaught, while Israel is only willing to agree to a temporary ceasefire, as it aims to finish dismantling the terror group.

Prior to Barnea’s departure for Paris, the war cabinet voted Thursday to lengthen the “leash” of Israel’s delegation to the truce-hostage talks, according to the Ynet news site.

The report said that there was a wide consensus among the security establishment, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, ministers Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot and Ron Dermer, and cabinet observer Aryeh Deri that the negotiation team’s mandate should be expanded.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was reportedly opposed to doing so, was said to have been swayed by the broad support for the move and the release on Wednesday of footage showing the kidnapping of female IDF soldiers on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists who stormed southern Israel killed some 1,200 people and took 252 hostage.

The Israeli war cabinet and top security officials meet in Tel Aviv on April 14, hours after Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel. (Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed in the subsequent fighting, of whom the UN says some 24,000 fatalities have been identified. The tolls, which cannot be independently verified, include some 15,000 gunmen Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

It is believed that 121 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that.

Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 19 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 37 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza. One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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