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Hostage-deal gaps remain, Israeli prime minister’s office says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the weekly cabinet meeting, in Tel Aviv

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 7, 2024. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/Pool/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights, opens new tab

JERUSALEM, Jan 28 (Reuters) – Talks held on Sunday initiated by Qatar, the United States and Egypt to broker a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas were “constructive” but meaningful gaps remain, the Israeli prime minister’s office said.

“There are still significant gaps in which the parties will continue to discuss this week in additional mutual meetings,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns and the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, David Barnea, met with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, along with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel, the statement said.

It said the talks took place in Europe, without giving a specific venue.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has been trying to facilitate the release of the more than 100 hostages who remain captive after the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel by militant Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Some 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted, according to Israeli officials. The attack ignited Israel’s war to eliminate Hamas, unleashing a torrent of strikes on Gaza that have flattened most of the enclave and killed more than 26,000 people, Palestinian health officials say.

The U.S. and Israeli intelligence chiefs have previously met with Qatari and Egyptian officials, helping to broker a short-lived truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed. In return, Israel approved increased aid for Gaza and released scores of Palestinian prisoners.

Reporting by Emily Rose
Editing by Jane Merriman and Frances Kerry

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