update deskIsrael at War

Mossad chief expected in Doha as ceasefire talks resume

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed Hamas's latest demands as "absurd."

Mossad Director David Barnea speaks at the opening of the Eli Cohen National Museum in Herzliya, Dec. 12, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Mossad Director David Barnea speaks at the opening of the Eli Cohen National Museum in Herzliya, Dec. 12, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Mossad chief David Barnea is expected to head back to Doha, Qatar for another round of ceasefire negotiations, which Egyptian officials said were set to resume on Sunday afternoon.

According to Hebrew media reports late Saturday, Barnea could arrive in Doha on Monday after Israel’s War Cabinet meets on Sunday night.

While in the Qatari capital, he will sit down with the Arab Gulf state’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and Egyptian interlocutors. Hamas will participate indirectly, marking the first time negotiations will have taken place since the start of Ramadan earlier this month.

A source told Reuters that the talks will center around the remaining gaps between Jerusalem and the Gaza-based terrorist group, including the number of Palestinian terrorists to be released from Israeli prisons in exchange for the 134 hostages still held in Gaza, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid into the coastal enclave.

Mediators, including the United States, had hoped to secure a six-week ceasefire deal before the start of Ramadan, possibly leading to a permanent truce.

However, Jerusalem has rejected Hamas’s demands that the IDF end the fighting and exit Gaza as “delusional.”

Two Egyptian officials, one involved in the talks and one briefed on the talks, said that Hamas gave mediators a new three-stage proposal, including a six-week pause in fighting during which 35 hostages would be released for 350 Palestinian terrorists. The hostages would include women, the sick and the elderly. Hamas would also free at least five female soldiers in exchange for 50 terrorists for each soldier, including some serving longer sentences.

Also in the first stage, Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza’s two main roads, allow displaced Gazans to return north and allow for aid to flow freely.

In the second stage, a permanent ceasefire would be established including Hamas releasing the remaining hostages alive in exchange for more Palestinian terrorists.

The third and final phase would involve Hamas handing over the bodies of hostages in exchange for Israel lifting the Gaza blockade and allowing reconstruction to begin.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the latest Hamas demands “absurd,” yet still agreed to send negotiators to Doha.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Saturday voiced his opposition to sending a delegation to Doha, tweeting, “I opposed the departure of the delegation to Paris and Qatar last time and it [was] proven […] right. The delusional Hamas position shows that the followers of the deal in the War Cabinet and the security establishment have lost their way, and their behavior only puts [Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya] Sinwar even higher on the tree and [pushes] the return of the abductees further away. It’s time to sober up […] and learn from mistakes.”

Smotrich continued: “Netanyahu must order the delegation to remain in Israel and the IDF to enter Rafah immediately and deepen the military pressure until Hamas is destroyed. Only in this way will it be possible, with God’s help, to win and return the abductees.”

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that “the soldiers of the IDF are fighting for their home in [Israel’s] longest and most just war. We are obligated to topple the Hamas regime, to dismantle its infrastructure—and to return the abductees home.”

For his part, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said that “it is clear to us that there is no victory without the return of the hostages. The duty to return them and to bring the bodies held in Gaza, including from ‘Operation Protective Edge’ [in 2014], for burial in Israel, to erase all doubts and fight for every shred of information for the families—all of this must remain above dispute.”

Gallant and Herzog were speaking at a state memorial ceremony at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem for fallen soldiers whose burial place is unknown.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met on Saturday in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, regarding a potential ceasefire deal.

They “discussed efforts to achieve a ceasefire of at least six weeks in Gaza as part of an agreement to secure the release of hostages,” said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

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