update deskIsrael at War

Report: CIA chief to meet with Netanyahu as hostage deal teeters

William Burns is in Jerusalem after visiting Cairo and Doha in a last-ditch effort to salvage a truce agreement.

CIA Director William Burns. Source: CIA/X.
CIA Director William Burns. Source: CIA/X.

Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem early Monday afternoon, The Times of Israel reported, citing an Israeli official.

The trip to Israel’s capital is part of a last-ditch effort by the CIA chief to salvage a hostage deal as the Israeli military prepares for a major military offensive against the last Hamas bastion of Rafah in southernmost Gaza. In the strongest signal yet that the operation is is moving forward, the IDF on Sunday began calling on residents of the city’s eastern neighborhoods to evacuate to a new, expanded humanitarian zone in Al-Mawasi.

U.S. President Joe Biden dispatched Burns to the Middle East for emergency diplomatic shuttling to save the truce talks—meeting with fellow mediators in Cairo and then Doha before the reported visit to Jerusalem.

The efforts reportedly collapsed over the weekend as Hamas is sticking to its demand to end the war, which is untenable for Israel. Jerusalem’s latest offer to Hamas was described as “extraordinarily generous” by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a recent visit to the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stern message to Hamas on Sunday amid ongoing negotiations for the release of the hostages.

“While Israel showed this willingness [to compromise], Hamas remained entrenched in its extreme positions, chief among them the demand to withdraw all our forces from the Strip, end the war, and leave Hamas intact,” Netanyahu said following the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

“The State of Israel cannot accept this. We are not ready to accept a situation in which the Hamas battalions come out of their bunkers, take control of Gaza again, rebuild their military infrastructure and return to threatening the citizens of Israel in the surrounding communities, in the cities of the south, in all parts of the country,” he continued.

Should that occur, “the next Oct. 7 is only a matter of time,” he said.

Israeli officials also on Saturday night denied reports that the government had agreed to end the war against Hamas as part of the hostage deal.

The Prime Minister’s Office on Monday also rebuked a New York Times report citing an anonymous Israeli official as stating that Netanyahu sabotaged a potential truce deal, calling it “a complete lie and a deliberate deception of the public.”

“Hamas is the one that sabotages any deal by not moving one millimeter from its extreme demands, that no Israeli government could accept, first and foremost that Israel withdraw from Gaza and end the war,” the statement read.

According to the Times report, an Israeli official, believed to be Netanyahu himself, released two statements on Saturday emphasizing that there were would be no hostage deal that would include ending the war, allegedly causing Hamas to harden its position.

The IDF began calling on residents of eastern Rafah to evacuate to a new, expanded humanitarian zone ahead of a major military offensive in the city.

The Cabinet decided on the evacuation on Sunday night, with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant informing U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin of the decision overnight.

Monday’s evacuation notice comes after three IDF soldiers were killed and at least three others seriously wounded on Sunday when Hamas terrorists fired 14 mortar shells from the Rafah area of southern Gaza at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom.

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