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CIA Director Burns heads to Europe to kickstart stalled Gaza truce talks: Report

After Israel's war cabinet mandated the negotiating team to resume talks, Israeli sources say there are indications that Hamas might be willing to return to negotiations.
SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

CIA Director Bill Burns will meet in Europe with his Israeli counterpart, David Barnea, in the coming days in a bid to revive stalled indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Egyptian and Qatari mediators may also attend the meeting.

The news was first reported by Axios' Barak Ravid on Thursday, citing US and Israeli officials, and comes weeks after ongoing diplomatic efforts mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar to reach a truce and hostage-release deal in Gaza appeared to hit an impasse.

Burns has been the lead US negotiator trying to broker a truce between the two warring sides in recent months.  

After Israel's war cabinet convened on Wednesday evening, an Israeli diplomatic source told Israel's Ynet Thursday there are indications that Hamas might agree to resume talks for a hostage release and cease-fire deal even as the Israeli military continues its push into Rafah in southern Gaza. 

Israeli media subsequently reported that the war cabinet had given the negotiating team a new mandate to resume negotiations, a development confirmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office. 

Ynet also quoted unnamed Egyptian sources as saying that Egypt is committed to its role as mediator between Israel and Hamas and that it is in contact with Israel over a date for resuming talks. 

Qatar-based Al Araby al-Jadeed reported earlier Thursday that concerned parties, particularly Egypt, are looking into the possibility of resuming negotiations. The report also said that Israeli delegations travel to Cairo weekly to discuss issues related to the security agreements between the two countries and the possibility of Egyptian cooperation with Israel to reopen the now-closed Rafah crossing point, which has been under Israeli control since May 7. 

The news comes amid indications that relations between Israel and Egypt have plummeted since Israel seized control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing earlier this month. 

Abduction footage increases pressure 

The Israeli war cabinet's decision came hours after a forum representing relatives of hostages held in Gaza published a three-minute video Wednesday showing events surrounding Hamas militants' capture of five female soldiers at the Nahal Oz base on Oct. 7.  While most of the other young women on the base were killed in the Hamas attack, the five shown in the video footage, all aged 19 or 20, remain in Hamas captivity.  

Thousands of people protested across Israel after the video went viral on social media and was shown across Israeli media outlets, calling on the government to immediately make a deal for the release of all the hostages held in Gaza.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday evening, Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari addressed the five kidnapped female soldiers directly: “We have failed to protect you, your friends and many other Israeli citizens and soldiers. We are responsible for that and committed to bringing you back home,” he said.

In a statement released Wednesday night local time, Hamas slammed the video as a “failed attempt by the occupation to distort the image of the resistance.”

Israeli military continues pushes in eastern Rafah, northern Gaza 

The Israeli military continues fighting in eastern Rafah, with troops operating in the Brazil and Shaboura neighborhoods, the Israeli military spokesperson’s office said Thursday, adding that the troops had located large stockpiles of weapons at an east Rafah cemetery including missiles and missile launchers. It also said that operations continue in Jabalia, in the north as well as in the center of the enclave.

The Gaza Strip's civil defense agency said two pre-dawn air strikes had killed 26 people, including 15 children, in Gaza City alone, AFP reported.

Agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal said one strike hit a family house, killing 16 people, in the Al-Daraj area, and another killed 10 people inside a mosque compound.

The Israeli military did not confirm Palestinian reports earlier in the day of Israeli troops operating in the Yabna refugee camp further to the west. Israel also did not confirm a report by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that it had taken control of more than half of the Philadelphi Corridor, the stretch of land along the Gaza-Egypt border. 

On Friday, United Nations’ top court is expected to issue rule on Israel’s Rafah offensive, and may potentially a halt to the operation according to Israeli media.

The International Court of Justice will make its decision based on a case brought by South Africa against the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.