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US, Israel, Egypt spy chiefs talk Gaza truce in Qatar

US, Israeli, Egyptian intelligence chiefs in Doha for talks on extending Gaza truce
3 min read
29 November, 2023
The intelligence chiefs of countries mediating a truce between Israel and Hamas, including the Mossad head, met in the Qatari capital on Tuesday to discuss possibly extending the pause in hostilities.
Israel's relentless bombardment has left large parts of the Gaza Strip in ruins [Getty]

The US and Israeli intelligence chiefs met with Qatar’s prime minister in Doha on Tuesday to discuss possibly reaching an extended truce deal between the Palestinian group Hamas and Tel Aviv.

Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency William Burns and Mossad Head David Barnea met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

Egypt’s director of intelligence Abbas Kamel was also present in the meeting, said CNN.

A truce mediated between Doha, Washington, and Cairo has been held since 24 November and has seen Hamas free at least 69 of the more than 200 hostages it captured during its 7 October attack in Israel.

Israel in turn has released at least 150 Palestinian prisoners, all of whom are women and children.

The truce was extended for a further two days on Monday, and mediating parties are looking to see if it could be further extended.

The Washington Post reported that Burns was seeking to pressure Hamas and Israel to expand their negotiations on the exchange of detainees to include the release of men and soldiers too.

Quoting a US official and a second source, The Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA director was also discussing "other aspects" of the Gaza war, without giving details.

On Tuesday, a source briefed on the visit told Reuters that the meeting was "to build on the progress of the extended humanitarian pause agreement and to initiate further discussions about the next phase of a potential deal".

The outcome of the talks was unclear, the source added.

Earlier this week, the US told Israel that it must work to avoid "significant further displacement" of Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza if it renews its ground offensive in the enclave, according to US officials.

This signalled a shift in Washington’s policy, as there seems to be growing international criticism of Israel’s indiscriminate targeting of civilians in Gaza.

Other Western heads of state, such as France’s Emmanuel Macron, have said Israel needs to stop killing women and children.

Since 7 October, unprecedented Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip has killed around 15,000 people, most of them civilians, including over 8,000 children.

At least half of the territory’s 2.3 million population has been displaced, mainly from northern Gaza which has largely been turned to ruins.

President Joe Biden’s message to Israel to be more cautious in its southern Gaza offensive was "passed down", according to the US officials.

"We have reinforced this in very clear language with the government of Israel - very important that the conduct of the Israeli campaign when it moves to the south must be done in a way that is to a maximum extent not designed to produce significant further displacement of persons," one official said.

"You cannot have the sort of scale of displacement that took place in the north, replicated in the south. It will be beyond disruptive, it will be beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network," the official said. "It can't happen."

(Agencies contributed to this report)