CIA Director William Burns in Egypt for high-stakes Israeli hostage, cease-fire talks

CIA Director William Burns in Egypt for high-stakes Israeli hostage, cease-fire talks

CIA Director William Burns arrived in Cairo, Egypt, Friday for the latest round of high-stakes negotiations over a hostage and cease-fire deal between Hamas and Israel, two U.S. officials and a source familiar with the matter told CBS News. 

The visit follows a stretch of technical talks and a fresh proposal from Israel that U.S. officials have described as “generous.”

House Intelligence Committee Hears Testimony On The 2024 Annual Threat Assessment
File: : Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns listens during a hearing with the House (Select) Intelligence Committee on March 12, 2024, in Washington, D.C. 

Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

Egyptian intelligence officials, alongside senior Qatari and American negotiators, have been for months facilitating the talks, which in recent weeks have taken on new urgency amid a looming Israeli ground invasion of Rafah, in southern Gaza, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering.

Oct. 7, 2023. The retaliatory military response by Israel, now in its sixth month, has resulted in the deaths of more than 34,000 Palestinian civilians, most of them women and children, according to local health officials.

There are believed to 133 hostages still being held in Gaza, and five of the unaccounted for are U.S. citizens. Last week Hamas released proof-of-life videos for two of the Americans, Hersh Goldberg Polin and Keith Siegel. In the propaganda videos, the two hostages are seen speaking on camera under duress. Siegel pressed the Israeli government to make a deal. 

The Israeli government has grown increasingly concerned in recent days that the International Criminal Court may issue arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu, for possible war crimes in Gaza.

In an interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell last month, Burns, a former diplomat and veteran negotiator, said the monthslong talks were like “pushing a very big rock up a very steep hill,” though he said the U.S. believed Hamas was “capable of releasing a number of hostages right now.”

“I think the region desperately needs that kind of a ceasefire,” Burns said.

Arden Farhi, Justine Redman and Camilla Schick contributed to this report.