C.I.A. Director Blames Hamas for Stalled Cease-Fire Talks


Negotiations for a cease-fire and the release of Israeli hostages have stalled because Hamas rejected the latest proposal put forth by Israel, Qatar and Egypt, the C.I.A. director said Thursday, putting the blame for a lack of progress in talks squarely on the group that led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Earlier this month, William J. Burns, C.I.A. director and lead American negotiator, traveled to Cairo and pushed what he called “a far-reaching proposal” that Egyptian and Qatari negotiators took to Hamas. The proposal contained an offer to allow some Gazans to return to the northern part of the enclave, a key Hamas demand.

While Mr. Burns did not describe the details of that proposal, he said that so far Hamas has not accepted it.

“It was a deep disappointment to get a negative reaction from Hamas,” said Mr. Burns, 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.”

Last Sunday, Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, expressed regret that Hamas had rejected the proposal and argued it proved that the group was not interested in reaching a deal.

Other American officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations, have said Hamas has signaled that it does not have enough women and civilian hostages in its control to consummate the first part of the deal, which would release 40 hostages over six weeks in return for a large number of Palestinian prisoners.

A senior Hamas official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said there were not enough living civilian hostages left who met Israel’s criteria to reach their proposed figure of 40 hostages over six weeks. He accused Israel of seeking to free captive soldiers for a lower price than that demanded by the group. Hamas has said most soldiers would be released in a later phase of a cease-fire deal.

In its latest proposal to negotiators, Hamas called for releasing fewer than 20 living hostages as part of an initial, six-week phase cease-fire deal, according to two Israeli officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Israel had hoped to see wounded and ill hostages freed, but Hamas was insisting on a far more narrow definition limited to the elderly and women, one of the officials said.

Last year, Mr. Burns helped guide talks that led to the release of roughly 100 hostages in return for a temporary halt in fighting and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Mr. Burns said he could not guarantee that the current talks would succeed.

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

Mr. Burns also reiterated the Biden administration’s desire that Israel not escalate its conflict with Iran, after what he called a failed Iranian attack last weekend. Instead, he said President Biden and other policymakers hope that “we’ll all find a way to de-escalate the situation.”

“I know the Israeli government, as we sit here this afternoon, is considering a response to what happened last Saturday night,” Mr. Burns said. “And you know, that’s their choice to make that response.”

But Mr. Burns said the Israelis had “clearly demonstrated their superiority” with shooting down Iranian drones and missiles. He said of 330 drones and missiles launched by Iran, only four or five hit the ground in Israel.

“And none of them did any significant damage,” he said. “It’s a reminder of the quality of the Israeli military. It’s a reminder of the fact that the Israelis have friends, starting with the United States.”


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