Almost 9,800 Palestinians have now been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.
The United States’ CIA Director Bill Burns is scheduled to visit Qatar and other countries in the region this week following his trip to Israel, as Washington scrambles to rein in its ally for a much needed humanitarian pause, according to a report by Axios.
The US official is reportedly seeking to push for a “humanitarian pause” during his trip to the region following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of any and all forms of ceasefire.
Citing a US official, the report said Burns is set to “discuss issues of mutual concern including the situation in Gaza, support for hostage negotiations, and the US commitment to continuing to deter state and non-state actors from widening the conflict between Israel and Hamas”.
In coordination with the US, Qatar has been heavily engaged in mediation talks to release secure the release of some 230 captives being held by Hamas in Gaza as part of wider de-escalation efforts.
On Sunday, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani called out Israel for committing “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians as it continues to unleash relentless force in the Gaza Strip.
“Every day, the occupation engages in genocidal practices and crimes of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people, not to mention the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals, schools, refugee camps and other civilian facilities in which the displaced, women, children and the elderly have taken shelter,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
He added: “When we hear to the justifications of the occupation forces, it mentions that there is suspicion of the presence of a [resistance leader], and the cost of assassinating or targeting this leader exceeds 400 people in a neighbourhood, and we find that the international reactions, unfortunately, are not at the required level and may sometimes be shameful.”
Qatar’s mediation has so far led to the release of four captives, though escalations on the ground have complicated efforts in releasing the others.
“With this violence increasing everyday, with this bombing continuous everyday our task has become even more difficult. But despite that, we remain hopeful, we remain committed to our role of reaching out to the parties with the aim of reaching a positive result,” Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed Al Khulaifi told Sky News last week.
Israeli officials told Axios that Burns’s visit will see him meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Mossad chief David Barnea, and other senior defence and intelligence officials in Tel Aviv.
It is unclear which Qatari officials he is scheduled to meet in Doha. However, the CIA director is also expected to travel to the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
The UAE, which was the first Gulf country to normalise relations with Israel in 2020, has pushed for a humanitarian truce amid rising concerns that the war could erupt into a wider regional conflict.
Anwar Gargash, a diplomatic adviser to the United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has called on the US to find a quick solution to end the war in Gaza.
“US involvement will be seen by when we end this war, the quicker the better, and whether we can have another you know, sort of process at problem solving, at issue solving,” Gargash said at a policy conference in the capital Abu Dhabi.
“If this crisis continues, and especially the humanitarian side, and if this crisis, brings us back full circle, to the old containment policy of pre-Seventh of October, I think the American role here is not going to be, forget right and wrong, is not going to be seen as effective,” he added.
Meanwhile, Jordan’s diplomatic position with Israel has been strained since the start of the war. Despite also having ties with Israel, Amman has appeared to take a tough stance on the recent war in Gaza and recalled Jordan’s ambassador to Israel last week.
Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called out Israel for creating an “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe” and warned the envoy would only be reinstates if Israel ceases fire.
Since Israel declared war, at least 9,922 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed-door meeting requested by the UAE and China on Monday.