Hostage talks continue in Paris amid expected Rafah operation

Israel plans to expand the framework for a hostage deal, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk ahead of the latest pending summit on the captives led by CIA Director Willian Burns.

“We will widen the mandate for the officials involved in the negotiations on the hostages,” Gallant said when the two men met in Tel Aviv.

Gallant also underscored for McGurk that the IDF “will continue to expand its ground operation in Gaza.”

McGurk is in Israel after a stop in Egypt to advance a deal to release the remaining 134 captives in Gaza and ensure that Israel has a sufficient plan to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians should it embark on a military operation in Rafah.
The pending Rafah operation, which has been widely condemned by the international community even before it had been executed, has been one of the pressure levers Israel has used to push Hamas to soften its stance on the terms of a deal.

Israeli hostages are handed over to the International Red Cross at Rafah, this past week. (credit: FLASH90)
The talks had appeared to stall, but on Wednesday, with McGurk’s arrival in the region, the potential of a deal appeared to be revived. 

Mossad Chief potentially heading for hostage talks in Paris

On Thursday, it appeared that Mossad Chief David Barnea could be heading for talks in Paris, possibly as early as this weekend, which would also include officials from the two countries negotiating the deal: Qatar and Egypt. 

In Tel Aviv, according to the Defense Minister’s Office, Gallant and McGurk spoke about efforts to secure the release of the 134 hostages, six of whom have US citizenship.
They also discussed “operational developments in Hamas strongholds in central and southern Gaza, and humanitarian aid efforts facilitated by Israel, together with US leadership and international partners.” 
Gallant stressed “the importance of dismantling remaining Hamas battalions in central and southern Gaza,” his office stated. 
He also “raised the issue of Iranian aggression via its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and discussed its various activities aimed at smuggling weapons and explosives to Israeli territory and destabilizing the region.” 
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.

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