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US Official to Meet Israeli and Qatari Officials for Talks on Hostage and Prisoner Exchanges

CIA Director William J. Burns is set to engage in discussions with Israeli and Qatari officials in Warsaw on Monday, focusing on the potential resumption of hostage and prisoner exchanges between Israel and Hamas, as reported by US officials.

A Pause and Broken Negotiations

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Last month, during a weeklong truce between Israel and Hamas, 105 hostages were released in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Unfortunately, negotiations broke down, and the conflict resumed on December 1st.

US Officials Making Efforts To Resume Negotiations

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Since then, US officials have been exploring various proposals to continue humanitarian releases and other exchanges.

However, resuming these talks has proven to be a complex task due to significant disagreements over the terms of further exchanges.

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Hamas Has ‘Reneged’ on Promises

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Publicly, a US official stated that Hamas had “reneged” on an agreement to release all female hostages. In response, Hamas argued that some of the remaining female hostages were considered soldiers.

Israel’s Accusations

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Israeli officials, speaking anonymously, accused Hamas of failing to release as many hostages as promised while making additional demands.

On the other hand, Hamas proposed deals that would release more Palestinians from Israeli prisons, including high-profile detainees. Israeli officials insisted on the release of all women and children before further discussions.

Potential for Progress

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Several factors suggest that the new round of talks may yield positive outcomes. After the tragic accidental deaths of three hostages shot by Israeli forces, the Israeli government faces increased pressure to secure the release of those still held by Hamas and its allies in Gaza.

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Pressure on Israel To Curtail Combat Operations

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Simultaneously, the United States is urging Israel to reduce major combat operations in Gaza and transition to a new phase in the conflict.

Key Meetings in Warsaw

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Mr. Burns is scheduled to meet with David Barnea, the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, who has been leading Israeli negotiation efforts.

The White House has designated Mr. Burns to collaborate with him.

High Level Discussions

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Additionally, both officials will hold discussions with Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani of Qatar. Qatar has been instrumental in facilitating negotiations and hosts Hamas’s political wing in Doha.

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Indirect Diplomacy Through Qatar

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It’s worth noting that neither Israel nor the US directly engages with Hamas leadership; instead, they work through intermediaries, primarily the Qataris.

Reported Resumption of Talks

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News of the talks’ resumption was initially reported by Axios. However, a spokeswoman for the CIA declined to comment, in accordance with the agency’s policy of not discussing the director’s travel.

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