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PARIS: The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency as well as top Egyptian, Qatari and Israeli officials were in Paris on Sunday working towards a ceasefire in Gaza, officials close to the participants said.

French authorities were also in touch with these four countries with the aim of negotiating a halt to hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the besieged territory, the sources said.

A security source on Friday told AFP that CIA chief William Burns would meet his counterparts from Israel and Egypt, as well as Qatar’s prime minister “in the coming days”.

The source confirmed a report in The Washington Post last week that US President Joe Biden was sending Burns to try to negotiate the release of remaining Hamas-held Israeli hostages in exchange for a ceasefire.

The New York Times said on Saturday that US-led negotiators were getting closer to an agreement under which Israel would suspend its war in Gaza for about two months in return for the release of more than 100 hostages.

Quoting unidentified US officials, it said negotiators had developed a draft agreement that would be discussed in Paris on Sunday.

US President Joe Biden on Friday spoke with Qatar’s emir to discuss efforts to free the hostages, the White House said, however warning “imminent developments” were unlikely.

Qatar is playing a key role in the latest talks after brokering a hostage release deal in November.

Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel resulted in about 1,140 deaths, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages and Israel says around 132 of them remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives.

Israel’s ensuing military offensive has killed at least 26,422 people, most of them civilians, in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

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