Tel Aviv: The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William J Burns, arrived in Israel on Sunday for a series of meetings with Israeli leaders and intelligence officials amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. This is the first stop of Burns’ regional tour, which will also include visits to other Middle Eastern countries, according to the New York Times, citing American officials.
The visit by Burns comes at a time when the US is urging Israel to adopt a more targeted approach to attacking Hamas, to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, and to minimize civilian casualties. The US is also seeking to enhance its intelligence sharing with Israel, which could provide valuable information about the whereabouts of Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas or any potential counterattacks by the militant group.
A US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Burns planned to reaffirm the US commitment to intelligence cooperation with its partners in the region. He also said that Burns would meet with several people to discuss the situation in Gaza, but did not disclose the names of the individuals or the locations of the meetings.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Iraq late on Sunday night and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the two leaders discussed the Israel-Hamas conflict, as well as the bilateral relations between the US and Iraq and the regional security challenges. Blinken’s visit was not announced in advance and he arrived in Iraq unexpectedly. Before that, he also stopped in Cyprus and discussed the possibility of sending aid to Gaza by sea route.