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Hostage deal talks close to breaking down – CIA chief travels to Qatar in last-ditch effort to save negotiations

Hamas not ready to drop demands, Israel won't agree to end the war

CIA director William J. Burns at a US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing to examine worldwide threats, Washington, DC, Mar. 11, 2024 (Photo: CNP/INSTARimages)

CIA Director William Burns traveled to Qatar on Sunday evening as the hostage deal negotiations between Hamas and Israel were close to collapsing following a meeting between a Hamas delegation and Egyptian mediators that ended without a breakthrough.

“Burns is on his way to Doha for an emergency meeting with the Qatari prime minister aimed at exerting maximum pressure on Israel and Hamas to continue negotiating,” several media outlets quoted an informed source.

A Hamas delegation left Cairo on Sunday and arrived in Doha, the capital of Qatar, to continue consultations after a meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, which failed to achieve a final breakthrough in the talks.

On Saturday, multiple Arabic outlets had reported that Hamas was set to accept the latest proposal and was ready to agree to at least the first phase of the deal that would free around 30 hostages without receiving guarantees of an end to the war.

Israeli media quoted officials saying that now there was no longer any reason to talk in terms of “optimism” or “pessimism” regarding the discussions, and said the chance to reach a deal was “very low.”

Sources in Israel’s cabinet told the media on Sunday evening that unless there was a U-turn in the protracted negotiations, the long-planned incursion into Rafah was now imminent.

Arabic channels reported that the talks broke down because Hamas continued to insist on its demand to end the current war as soon as the hostages were released. They also demanded that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to the northern Gaza Strip. Israel reportedly refused to sign an agreement on these terms.

“The organization gave its response to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators, and in-depth and serious discussions took place,” Hamas leaders said in an official announcement.

“We confirm the desire to reach an agreement that meets the national demands of our people, that will end the aggression completely, lead to a withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip, increase aid, return the displaced, begin rebuilding and complete the prisoner exchange deal,” the terror group added.

Israel’s War Cabinet met on Sunday evening in Jerusalem to discuss Israel’s response to the recent developments, as the impending incursion into the southern town of Rafah – planned by Israeli leaders for several months – appears more imminent than ever.

The Egyptian mediating team expects an official Israeli answer by Monday, according to Israeli media reports.

“This is not a surprising step, they do not want a deal,” Israeli security officials told Ynet while noting: “It will not have a positive effect on the situation with Lebanon.”

Reports of a nearly reached deal to release the hostages had energized both families of the hostages and anti-government demonstrators, who protested across the country on Saturday night.

The protesters demanded that a deal be finalized as soon as possible to secure the hostages' release.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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