Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns was in Qatar Tuesday for negotiations calling for Israel and Hamas to expand their hostage release deal and free U.S. hostages. File photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- CIA Director William Burns visited Qatar on Tuesday to sit down with his Middle East counterparts for talks aimed at a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and Hamas that would potentially secure the release of additional hostages in Gaza, including nine kidnapped Americans.
Burns was meeting with Egypt's Intelligence director Abbas Kamel and Israel's Mossad intelligence service chief David Barnea, according to reports by CNN, The Washington Post and The Times of Israel.
He was set to call for Hamas and Israel to include men and military personnel in the hostage negotiations which have so far only included women and children and an extension of the temporary pause in fighting.
Burns also called for Hamas to immediately release as many as nine American hostages, The Washington Post reported.
Burns' return to the negotiating table coincided with the two-day extension of the pause in hostilities, which resulted in the militant group freeing dozens of civilian hostages in recent days. However, hundreds more people remain unaccounted for after more than seven weeks in captivity.
Barnea's role in the ongoing talks was notable as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose him to negotiate the release of hostages over intelligence minister Gila Gamliel and foreign minister Eli Cohen.
The international community viewed the meeting with cautious optimism as the talks could pave the way to a broader agreement to free more hostages, while Netanyahu vowed over the weekend to continue the war against Hamas following the current hostage negotiations.
"We will return with full force to achieve our goals: the elimination of Hamas; ensuring that Gaza does not return to what it was," he said.
On Sunday, however, Hamas expressed hope that another extension would be possible with the aim of increasing the number of Palestinian prisoners freed.
The U.S. was still pushing both sides to accept an extended cease-fire to facilitate the release of more hostages and enable to delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza in the coming days.
Burns, who is the former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, has taken the lead role in the ongoing negotiations after he was tapped by President Joe Biden due to his extensive network of contacts across the Middle East and his good rapport with individuals inside the Mossad.
Earlier this month, Burns and Barnea played a key role in brokering the initial truce of the conflict, while collaborating with Qatar's prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and U.S. Middle East adviser Brett McGurk, to gain the release of the first 50 hostages last week.
The meeting also took place after 4-year-old American dual citizen Abiogail Edan became the first American hostage to be released on Sunday.
The latest releases marked the fourth and final phase of a deal between Israel and Hamas to release 50 captives in return for a four-day pause in the war.