May 22, 2024

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Israel strikes Iran, but scope appears limited: live updates

Israel strikes Iran, but scope appears limited: live updates

Aaron Puckerman

A demonstration in Jerusalem this month calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas.credit…Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency said on Thursday that negotiations on a ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages had stalled due to Hamas’ rejection of the latest proposal put forward by Israel, Qatar and Egypt, placing the blame for the lack of progress in the talks squarely on the group that led the October 7 attack on Israel.

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

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

“It was a huge disappointment to get such a negative reaction from Hamas,” Burns said, speaking at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. “Right now, it is this negative reaction that stands in the way of innocent civilians in Gaza getting the humanitarian relief they desperately need.”

Last Sunday, Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, expressed its regret over Hamas's rejection of the proposal, saying it proved that the group was not interested in reaching an agreement.

Other US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations, said Hamas indicated it did not have enough women and civilian hostages under its control to complete the first part of the deal, which would release 40 hostages over six weeks in 2018. A large number of Palestinian prisoners.

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A senior Hamas official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were no longer enough living civilian hostages who met Israeli criteria to reach the proposed figure of 40 hostages over six weeks. He accused Israel of seeking to release the captured soldiers for a price lower than that demanded by the movement. Hamas said that most of the soldiers would be released at a later stage of the ceasefire agreement.

In its latest proposal to negotiators, Hamas called for the release of fewer than 20 hostages alive as part of an initial six-week ceasefire agreement, according to two Israeli officials familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues. . One official said that Israel had hoped to release wounded and sick hostages, but Hamas insisted on a much narrower definition limited to the elderly and women.

Last year, Burns helped guide talks that led to the release of about 100 hostages in exchange for a temporary cessation of fighting and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Mr. Burns said he could not guarantee the success of the current talks.

“It breaks your heart because you can see from a very human perspective what is at stake here as well,” he said.

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

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

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

He added: “None of them caused any major damage.” “It is a reminder of the quality of the Israeli army. It is a reminder of the fact that the Israelis have friends, starting with the United States.”