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US asked Israel for help in locating missing journalist Austin Tice: Report

Hostage affairs envoy Roger Carstens met with Israel's hostage team and asked for help with intelligence gathering, Axios reports
Tice was a freelance photojournalist when he disappeared on 14 August 2012 after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus.
Tice, a freelance photojournalist, disappeared on 14 August 2012 after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus (AFP/File photo)

The US State Department's envoy for hostage affairs has asked for Israel's help in locating American journalist Austin Tice who went missing in Syria in 2012, Axios reported on Thursday.

Roger Carstens met with Israel's hostage team last week, including with negotiators and military and Mossad experts, the news site reported.

There, Carstens asked the Israeli team to help with intelligence gathering, and also asked for new ideas on how to proceed with the missing person case.

Neither Israel nor the US have diplomatic relations with Syria, but Israeli intelligence services monitor Damascus closely.

Tice is a former US marine and a freelance photojournalist working for AFP, the Washington Post, CBS and other news organisations. He disappeared on 14 August 2012, after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus.

A State Department official told Middle East Eye in April 2021 that the US was operating "under the sincere belief that Austin Tice is alive".

Biden administration believes US journalist Austin Tice is still alive
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While the Biden administration, like the Trump administration, has pledged to make hostage recovery a priority, little to no public progress has been made in securing the US journalist.

This August will mark 10 years since he first went missing in Syria.

The Trump administration also requested Israel's assistance when Robert O'Brien was hostage envoy from 2018 to 2019, Axios reported, citing Israeli sources, but those efforts produced "very little new information".

In 2020, Trump officials reportedly travelled to Damascus, where the US planned to negotiate the return of multiple American citizens, including Tice.

The trip was unsuccessful after Syrian officials demanded the lifting of sanctions, a return to diplomatic ties, and a withdrawal of troops - while sharing no information on the whereabouts of the journalist and others.

Last August, on Tice's 40th birthday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believed it was within Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's power to release Tice - or to persuade his captors to free him.

There are half a dozen US citizens believed to be held by the Syrian government or forces allied with Damascus, including Syrian-American psychotherapist Majd Kamalmaz.

Kamalmaz travelled to Syria from Lebanon in 2017, and, according to his family, was stopped at a government checkpoint in Damascus less than 24 hours after arriving there. That was the last time his family heard from him.

The State Department did not respond to MEE's request for comment for this report by time of publication.

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