Mossad chief David Barnea and Israel Security Agency director Ronen Bar met with Qatari and Egyptian mediators on Sunday in Paris to discuss a possible hostage release deal with Hamas.
According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, “The meeting was defined as constructive,” though “there are still significant gaps which the sides will continue to discuss at additional mutual meetings to be held this week.”
In addition to Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Abbas Kamel, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, CIA Director William Burns also participated in the meeting.
The Israeli delegation included Barnea, Bar and Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Israel Defense Forces’ point man for hostage negotiations.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that discussions are currently focused on a ceasefire for a period of up to two months in exchange for the staged release of more than 100 hostages. In addition to pausing its military campaign against Hamas, Israel would have to agree to commute the jail sentences of an unspecified number of Palestinian terrorists.
The negotiations have been complicated by Hamas’s demand for an end to the war, a stance that is incompatible with Israel’s stated goal of destroying the terror group, the NYT said.
According to Saudi-owned Al-Hadath TV, the parties on Sunday reached a “breakthrough” for a two-month ceasefire-for-hostages deal, under which Israel reportedly also agreed to allow more aid into the Gaza Strip.
Ahead of the summit, Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster cited informed sources who said the Israeli delegation traveled to Europe with the message that Doha and Cairo need to “apply additional levers of pressure on Hamas” to accept what Jerusalem considers a feasible deal.
“The purpose of this top-level meeting is to try and initiate a move; to bring up ideas, proposals, to break the deadlock,” the sources told Kan.
The Israeli War Cabinet will meet on Monday night to discuss the outcomes of the Europe summit, the Ynet news site reported on Sunday.
Tensions between Israel and Qatar were recently heightened after leaked audio surfaced of Netanyahu criticizing the country’s role as a mediator with Hamas during a roundtable with families of hostages taken on Oct. 7.
“When I talk about Qatar, you don’t hear me thank Qatar,” Netanyahu says in the recording. “Because for me, Qatar is no different in essence from the United Nations. It is no different in essence from the Red Cross, and to some extent, it’s even more problematic.”
The latest round of negotiations comes as fighting rages in Hamas’s last major Gaza stronghold, the southern city of Khan Younis. Senior Hamas leaders, including Yahya Sinwar, are believed to be hiding in the vast tunnel network underneath Khan Yunis, where they have reportedly surrounded themselves with a large number of Israeli hostages.
According to official Israeli figures, some 136 hostages remain in Gaza, although dozens are believed to be dead. The terror group abducted more than 240 people during its bloody Oct. 7 rampage across the northwestern Negev, in which 1,200 people were murdered and thousands more wounded.
One hundred and five hostages, mostly women and children, were released in November as part of a ceasefire agreement, which Hamas broke when it refused to hand over the last group of female hostages, plus two children, and fired a volley of rockets at the Jewish state. Four hostages had been released by Hamas prior to the ceasefire, while one was rescued by IDF forces.