CIA Chief William Burns Seek Support for Israel-Hamas Ceasefire in Middle East

CIA Director William Burns and White House Special Advisor Brett McGurk are in the Middle East today to garner support for the latest ceasefire proposal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip

by Sededin Dedovic
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CIA Chief William Burns Seek Support for Israel-Hamas Ceasefire in Middle East
© Anna Moneymaker / getty images

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, and the White House's special advisor, Brett McGurk, will attempt to secure support in the Middle East today for the latest proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A source from Qatar, a country that, along with Egypt and the United States, is mediating indirect negotiations with Israel and Hamas, said that Burns is expected to continue working with negotiators in Doha to reach a ceasefire agreement.

According to the American news website Axios, US President Joe Biden's special advisor for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, will arrive in Cairo today, just a few days after Biden announced a new proposal. The plan presented by Biden, which he said was proposed by Israel, envisions a six-week ceasefire followed by Israel's withdrawal from densely populated areas in Gaza and the release of some hostages, primarily women and the sick, as well as Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

The goal of the plan is to establish a permanent ceasefire at a later stage, provided Hamas adheres to its obligations, Biden said. French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday called on Hamas to accept the proposal, while Qatar awaits a clear stance from Israel, which seems to have distanced itself from the plan, according to AFP.

Last night, the Israeli war cabinet met to discuss the latest developments in the Gaza conflict after two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government expressed their support for the proposal.

According to the Israeli public service Kan, the cabinet decided to seek guarantees from the US to continue the war against Hamas if the Palestinian Islamist organization violates the agreement. Conflicting demands from both sides offer little hope that the plan will be fulfilled.

Hamas insists on a permanent ceasefire, while Israel aims to destroy the organization that led the unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7 last year. The attack killed around 1,200 people on the Israeli side, mostly civilians, according to AFP, based on Israeli information.

Of the 251 people kidnapped and taken to Gaza, 120 are still detained, and 41 have died, according to the Israeli military. In retaliation, Israel launched an offensive on the Gaza Strip that has so far killed at least 36,550 people, mostly civilians, according to the Ministry of Health in the Hamas-led government in Gaza, which Israel, the US, and the EU consider a terrorist organization.

Israeli soldiers give peace and thumbs-up gestures as Israeli tanks and troops move near the border with Gaza on October 28, 202© Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

In the meantime, almost a month has passed since the start of the ground offensive in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, which Israel presented as the final phase of the war against Hamas, with fighting continuing in the northern and central parts of the besieged territory.

The resurgence of conflict in several parts of Gaza, from which the Israeli military previously withdrew and claimed to control, indicates the failure of Israeli strategy, according to Michael Milstein, a specialist in Palestinian affairs at Tel Aviv University.

Currently, about 1.7 million of the total 2.4 million residents have taken refuge in less than one-fifth of Gaza's territory, and Israeli bombings and deliberate blockades have practically prevented access to starving civilians, warned the non-governmental organization Oxfam.

In any case, a possible ceasefire at this stage will not resolve the post-war issue, which is the biggest disagreement between Netanyahu and Biden, the US president said on Tuesday. "My major disagreement with Netanyahu is what will happen after the end (of the conflict) in Gaza," Biden told Time magazine, questioning what situation the Palestinian territory will return to, whether Israeli forces will return there, and concluding that this would not be effective.

Sanctions against ICC judges

The US House of Representatives voted last night on a bill to impose sanctions on members of the International Criminal Court (ICC), whose prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Benjamin Netanyahu© Amir Levy / Getty Images

The proposal has little chance of passing in the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority, and President Joe Biden has expressed opposition. However, for the Republican majority in the House, which proposed the text, yesterday's vote shows that the "US stands firmly with Israel.

They reject international bureaucrats issuing, without any reason, arrest warrants against Israeli leaders for non-existent crimes," said Congressman Mike Johnson. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan requested the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Hamas leaders, on May 20 for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

If approved by a "panel of judges," then the 124 member countries of the ICC can proceed with arrests. However, neither the US nor Israel are members of the International Criminal Court.

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