Photos of some of Hamas' prisoners (European News Agency)

CIA Director William Burns arrived in Qatar on Tuesday for meetings with Israeli intelligence chief David Parnia and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, aimed at brokering a major hostage deal between Israel and Hamas.

Burns is seeking to broaden the focus of ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas over detainees to include, in addition to women and children, the release of men and military personnel as well, and is pushing for the release of 8 or 9 U.S. detainees held by Hamas, according to U.S. officials.

A US official said that "Burns secretly traveled to Doha for meetings related to the continuation of negotiations between Israel and Hamas on prisoners," and President Joe Biden chose him because of his extensive ties throughout the Middle East, especially within the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, where they "listen to him and respect him strongly," according to a source familiar with the matter.

Natan Sachs, an Israeli researcher at the Brookings Institution, said, "David Barnia is the main Israeli person in these negotiations, because he is the person authorized to speak on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially since Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen are outside Netanyahu's circle of trust, making Burns' meetings with his counterpart a focal point for making deals."

Longer truce

US officials are demanding a longer truce to release detainees and bring humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, but Israel will not accept more than 10 days before the resumption of military operations, after Netanyahu reiterated his pledge to return to fighting, saying, "We will return with all our strength to achieve our goals, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza does not return to what it was."

However, an Israeli official familiar with the negotiations said Israel remained open to proposals to include men and military personnel in hostage releases, but insisted on the release of all remaining civilian children and women before any further deals were concluded, and as of Tuesday 61 Israeli detainees had been released against 180 Palestinian women and children.

Informed sources told the newspaper that one of Burns' goals in Qatar is to explore the type of coordination or mechanism that can be put in place to secure the flow of aid outside the framework of detainee negotiations, because Washington is worried that aid delivery will falter if Hamas and Israel fail to negotiate, especially since all parties agree that the flow of aid to Gaza is not enough, which US officials attribute to security and logistical issues that do not allow the passage of more than 200 trucks per day.

Source: Washington Post