Pressure for a deal between Israel and Hamas – and relief for civilians in Gaza – is mounting. CIA Director William Burns is now in Egypt for a new round of talks, with the aim of reaching a ceasefire and another prisoner exchange between Israel and terror-labeled Hamas. The information on progress in the talks comes from two officials with direct access to the negotiations, according to AP.
That David Barnea, head of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad, is participating in the talks is seen by observers as a sign that the Israelis are now open to a possible agreement with Palestinian Hamas, writes the Financial Times.
– Hamas is open to discussing any initiative that leads to an end to aggression and war, an anonymous representative of the militant Palestinian movement told the AFP news agency about Tuesday’s meeting.
Among the meeting participants in Cairo are also Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamal and Qatar’s prime minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, according to AFP. Egypt and Qatar act as mediators with the support of the United States.
The American intelligence chief was also involved in negotiating the ceasefire proposal that was drawn up in Paris in January.
The US now says it wants to see “at least a six-week” pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas. According to President Joe Biden, the most important elements for an agreement, which would allow time for the release of hostages and humanitarian aid in Gaza, are in place.
– There are also parts that are not in place yet, the president said after a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House on Monday.
The Jordanian king highlighted Biden’s role in resolving the conflict, but also pressed the civilian suffering.
– We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting ceasefire now. The war must end, Abdullah II said.
Civilians in trouble
The talks in Cairo follow repeated warnings from Washington and the United Nations about Israel’s planned ground offensive against Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. There, next to the border with Egypt, over a million Palestinian civilians have been crammed into a small area in harsh conditions, with shortages of food and water and recurrent outbreaks of hepatitis and diarrheal diseases. Large parts of the world community stress that the people of Rafah have nowhere else to go.
On Tuesday, Israel is also urged by China to put an end to the planned offensive.
During Monday’s Israeli attack on Rafah, up to 100 people were killed in connection with the release of two Israeli hostages. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the raid as “perfect”, while the Palestinian Foreign Ministry called it a massacre.