Hamas is holding up talks on ceasefire and hostages, CIA chief says

Around 100 living hostages remain in Hamas captivity, according to Israel

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Friday 19 April 2024 02:12 BST
Hamas rejects latest Gaza truce proposal, demands permanent ceasefire

CIA director William Burns blamed Hamas on Thursday for allegedly holding up negotiations to end the war in Gaza and return Israeli hostages, pointing to their decision last week to reject an Israeli ceasefire proposal.

“It was a deep disappointment to get a negative reaction from Hamas,” the intelligence official, who traveled to Cairo for negotiations earlier this month, said on Thursday while speaking at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. “Right now, it’s that negative reaction that really is standing in the way of innocent civilians in Gaza getting humanitarian relief that they so desperately need.”

“And it breaks your heart because you can see in very human terms what’s at stake here as well,” he added.

The comments echo the view of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, which recently accused the leaders of Hamas of not being interested in a deal. Hamas seized more than 200 hostages in its terror attack on Israel on 7 October, when it killed more than 1,200 people.

Last week, Hamas announced its rejection of the latest confidential Israeli proposal, arguing it hadn’t met key demands.

"We ... reaffirm our adherence to our demands and the national demands of our people; with a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of the occupation army from the entire Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced to their areas and places of residence, intensification of the entry of relief and aid, and the start of reconstruction," the group said of its decision.

William Burns held negotiations in Cairo earlier this month
William Burns held negotiations in Cairo earlier this month (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Israel, meanwhile, has insisted on the return of the 130 individuals believed to still be in captivity, a quarter of whom may have already perished. It has also insisted it won’t stop fighting until Hamas is destroyed as a military force.

Last week, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a date has been set for the IDF invasion of Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million civilians have taken refuge after being told by the Israelis to flee south.

Behind the scenes, issues over the hostage-exchange portion of any ceasefire agreement are reportedly a key sticking point.

A Hamas official told The New York Times it does not have enough living civilian hostages to comply with a proposal to release 40 people over the next six weeks.

An Israeli official, meanwhile, told the paper Hamas has proposed releasing half that number, under a narrower set of criteria only including women and the elderly, rather than a broader criteria Israeli had requested of hostages who are wounded or ill.

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