US, Israel, Egypt, Qatar officials in Gaza talks in Paris: Sources

AFP , Sunday 28 Jan 2024

The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency as well as top Egyptian, Qatari, and Israeli officials were in Paris on Sunday working towards a ceasefire in Gaza, officials close to the participants said.

Women protest in Tel Aviv
Women protest in Tel Aviv to demand a ceasefire in Gaza and a deal for the release of Israeli captives detained by the Palestinian Hamas movement since the October 7. AFP


French authorities were also in touch with these four countries with the aim of negotiating a halt to hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian resistance group Hamas in the besieged territory, the sources said.

Israel said late Sunday that the discussions in Paris, attended by the heads of its Mossad intelligence agency and Shin Bet security agency, had been "constructive".

But "there are still significant gaps which the parties will continue to discuss this week in additional mutual meetings," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

A security source on Friday told AFP that CIA chief William Burns would meet his counterparts from Israel and Egypt, as well as Qatar's prime minister "in the coming days".

The source confirmed a report in The Washington Post last week that US President Joe Biden was sending Burns to try to negotiate the release of remaining Hamas-held Israeli captives in exchange for a ceasefire.

The New York Times said on Saturday that US-led negotiators were getting closer to an agreement under which Israel would suspend its war in Gaza for about two months in return for the release of more than 100 captives.

Quoting unidentified US officials, it said negotiators had developed a draft agreement that would be discussed in Paris on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden on Friday spoke with Qatar's emir to discuss efforts to free the captives, the White House said, however warning "imminent developments" were unlikely.

Qatar is playing a key role in the latest talks after brokering a captive release deal in November.

Hamas on Oct.7, seized about 250 captives and Israel says around 132 of them remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives.

Israel's ensuing military offensive has killed at least 26,422 people, 70% of them women and children, in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry in the territory.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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