update deskIsrael at War

Mossad chief leads Israeli delegation to Doha for hostage talks

Sources say while "important" progress made during talks this week, there is still a "long and difficult road ahead."

Mossad Director David Barnea speaks at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism's World Summit on Counter-Terrorism at Herzliya's Reichman University, Sept. 10, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/TPS.
Mossad Director David Barnea speaks at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism's World Summit on Counter-Terrorism at Herzliya's Reichman University, Sept. 10, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/TPS.

A high-level Israeli delegation was set to arrive in Qatar on Friday as part of ongoing negotiations to release the 134 remaining Israeli hostages being held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a temporary ceasefire.

The delegation, led by Mossad director David Barnea, will join a summit alongside U.S. CIA director William Burns; Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani; and the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed on Thursday that “the meeting of senior officials will be held in the framework of the negotiations in Doha … to advance the efforts to return the hostages.”

Israel’s Ynet news outlet cited sources familiar with the negotiations who said that while the parties made “important” progress during talks earlier this week, there was still a “long and difficult road ahead.”

The sources said Netanyahu authorized Barnea’s participation in the summit in an attempt “to give a boost to the process, to push and help facilitate a process that is starting to move forward.

“There was a proposal from Hamas that was completely unacceptable. There was an Israeli answer that was unacceptable to Hamas, and the negotiations are meant to reduce gaps,” added the sources.

The Israeli War Cabinet is expected to convene later on Friday and receive an update on the talks in Doha, ahead of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

A potential ceasefire deal in Gaza is “getting closer,” Blinken said on Wednesday during a stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “I think the gaps are narrowing, and I think an agreement is very much possible,” the top American diplomat told the Saudi-based Al Hadath newspaper.

“We worked very hard with Qatar, with Egypt and with Israel to put a strong proposal on the table. We did that; Hamas wouldn’t accept it. They came back with other requests, other demands,” Blinken continued, saying that “the negotiators are working on that right now.”

Hamas abducted 253 hostages during its invasion of southwestern Israel on Oct. 7, 134 of whom are still being held by the terror group.

Last week, Netanyahu called the latest Hamas demands “absurd.” While Jerusalem remains pessimistic, a delegation led by Barnea had traveled to Doha on Monday launch another round of negotiations. According to Reuters, Israel offered a six-week truce in exchange for the release of 40 captives.

Hamas has repeatedly demanded a military withdrawal from Gaza and an end to the current war, which Israel denounced as “non-starters.”

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