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Qatar hopes US retaliation won't undercut hostage talks

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Qatar hopes US retaliation won't undercut hostage talks
January 29, 2024
Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Qatar's prime minister on Monday said he hoped U.S. retaliation for an attack that killed three U.S. troops in Jordan would not undercut progress toward a new Israel-Hamas hostage release deal in weekend talks.

"I hope that nothing would undermine the efforts that we are doing or jeopardize the process," Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al Thani told a Washington think tank audience when asked if U.S. retaliation for a drone attack by Iran-backed militants could scuttle an emerging deal.

CIA Director William Burns met Sheikh Mohammed, as well as the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service and the head of Egyptian intelligence on Sunday, in talks described as constructive by Israel, Qatar and the United States, albeit with significant gaps remaining.

U.S. President Joe Biden has been trying to facilitate the release of the more than 100 hostages who remain captive after the deadly Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israel by militants from Hamas, which rules Gaza.

According to Israel, some 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted in the attack, which sparked Israel's war to eliminate Hamas. Israel has since unleashed a torrent of strikes on Gaza that have flattened most of the Palestinian enclave and killed more than 26,000 people, Palestinian health officials say.

Tensions have surged around the Middle East since Israel began its aerial and ground offensive, with Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi forces striking U.S. and other targets in the Red Sea in attacks that have disrupted global shipping.

In a major escalation, three U.S. service members were killed and at least 34 wounded in a drone attack by Iran-backed militants on U.S. troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian

border, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

Speaking at Washington's Atlantic Council think tank, the Qatari prime minister said U.S. retaliation "will definitely have an impact ... One way or another it will definitely have an impact on regional security and we hope things get contained."

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay, Arshad Mohammed and Andrew Mills; Editing by Ros Russell)

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