Mossad chief meets Qatari PM, CIA director in Warsaw for hostage talks

Renewed Israeli interest in 2nd deal comes after three hostages were mistakenly killed by IDF in Gaza; sources familiar with negotiations warn of ‘long, complicated’ process ahead

File: Mossad chief David Barnea speaks during the opening ceremony of the Eli Cohen Museum in Herzliya, December 12, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
File: Mossad chief David Barnea speaks during the opening ceremony of the Eli Cohen Museum in Herzliya, December 12, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Mossad chief David Barnea met on Monday with CIA director Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Warsaw to discuss efforts to reach a new hostage deal with Hamas, according to multiple reports in the Hebrew press. A US official also confirmed the meeting to the Associated Press.

Barnea was previously widely reported to have met with Al Thani in Norway on Friday night.

The Ynet news site quoted a source involved as saying the negotiations would be “long, complicated and more difficult than before.”

Qatar was a key mediator in the first hostage deal that saw 105 civilians released from Hamas captivity in Gaza over the course of seven days in late November. The released hostages comprised 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino.

The Thai and Filipino workers and one Russian-Israeli were released through separate deals.

In return, Israel agreed to the release of Palestinian prisoners, all women and underaged men, in a 3-to-1 ratio, meaning that in total, 240 Palestinian women and underage security prisoners were freed for 80 Israeli women and children.

Illustrative: Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists stand guard as a Red Cross vehicle transports newly released hostages in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on November 28, 2023. (Flash90)

It is believed that 129 hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive. Four hostages were released prior to the first truce, and one was rescued by troops.

The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages who were mistakenly killed by the military on Friday have been returned to Israel. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 20 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

Following the deaths of the three hostages at the hands of IDF troops in Gaza last week, several reports on Saturday night indicated that Israel was looking to boost efforts to reach a new hostage deal with Hamas.

Citing Egyptian officials, Kan news alleged on Saturday evening that Egyptian and Qatari officials had offered a new deal to Hamas in recent days that would see the release of elderly and sick men and the remaining women and children in exchange for the release of senior Palestinian prisoners.

It was not clear whether the offer was made after consultations with Israel. Kan said Hamas had so far not responded to the proposal.

Families and supporters of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza attend a rally calling for their return, in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2023. (AP/Leo Correa)

Since the previous hostage deal, Hamas has indicated that it has toughened its position on the issue, with some of the group’s officials indicating the war would need to end before it entertains the idea of any more releases.

On Saturday, the terror organization issued a statement saying that it would not agree to another deal “unless the aggression against our people stops once and for all.”

On Sunday, two Egyptian sources told Reuters that Hamas is insisting that it, not Israel, will decide which hostages to release should another deal be implemented and that it wants Israeli troops to withdraw to preset lines.

According to the sources, Israel rejected the latter term, but accepted the first: “While Israel agreed on Hamas setting the list, the sources said it demanded a timeline and to see the list before setting the time and duration of the ceasefire,” Reuters reported.

Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza was triggered by the Hamas terror onslaught on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists poured into Israel from the land, air and sea, launching the deadliest attack in Israel’s history.

The terrorists rampaged across more than 20 communities in southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and seizing some 240 hostages.

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