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CIA Director William Burns to return to Middle East for new Israel hostage talks

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CIA Director William Burns is expected to travel to Cairo, Egypt, this weekend for a fresh round of hostage talks with top officials from Egypt, Qatar and Israel, multiple sources in the U.S. and the region familiar with the planning told CBS News.

The negotiations mark the latest effort to strike a deal that has remained elusive for months. American officials have been pressing for a six-week ceasefire that would allow for a phased release of hostages and an accompanying release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, along with other terms, including a surge of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The latest round follows a tense call between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday, during which the president pushed for an immediate ceasefire that would pave the way for a broader deal. According to a senior administration official, the two leaders discussed the importance of fully empowering Israeli negotiators to reach a deal, which in its first phase would secure the release of women, elderly, sick and wounded hostages.

On Friday, Mr. Biden wrote letters to the president of Egypt and the Qatari emir on the state of the talks and urged them to secure commitments from Hamas to agree to and abide by a deal. 

Sunday, when the talks are expected to resume, will mark six months since the Oct. 7 attacks, when thousands of Hamas militants stormed over Israel's southern border, killing 1,200 people and abducting 250 others. There are five Americans believed to be among those taken by Hamas or associated militant groups in Gaza. Marches are planned for Sunday in New York, Washington and in Israel to call for a diplomatic deal to release the hostages.

Burns, a career diplomat before being tapped to lead CIA, has been dispatched by the Biden administration multiple times to lead successive rounds of talks with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Egypt's intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, and senior Israeli intelligence officials David Barnea of Mossad and Ronen Bar of Shin Bet. The sole prior agreement, struck in November, lasted just over a week and resulted in the release of more than 100 Israeli hostages and over 200 Palestinian prisoners.

This CIA declined to comment on the director's travel.

Special Presidential Envoy for Hostages (SPEHA) Roger Carstens was also expected to travel to Israel on Friday for meetings with officials there. Multiple officials told CBS News that Biden officials, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, will meet with hostage families in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

Brett McGurk, White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, played a key role in arranging for that first temporary pause in fighting and hostage exchange and will remain at the White House for the hostage meetings next week.

Sara Cook contributed to this report.

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