Talks on Gaza truce expected as Israeli offensive, aid crisis rage on

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Talks on Gaza truce expected as Israeli offensive, aid crisis rage on

GAZA, MAR 3: Mediators expected to reconvene in Cairo as soon as Sunday and search for a formula acceptable to Israel and Hamas for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza, sources with knowledge of the talks said, after foreign governments resorted to airdrops to aid desperate civilians in the Palestinian enclave.

Israeli and Hamas delegations were expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday, two Egyptian security sources said, although another source briefed on the talks said Israel would not send a delegation until it got a full list of hostages who are still alive.

Hopes for the first pause in fighting since November rose last week after a previous round of talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt in Doha and indications from US President Joe Biden that agreement was close.

A senior US official said on Saturday that the framework for a six-week pause in fighting was in place, with Israel’s agreement, and now depended on Hamas agreeing to release hostages it has held in Gaza since its attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

“The path to a ceasefire right now literally at this hour is straightforward. And there’s a deal on the table. There’s a framework deal. The Israelis have more or less accepted it,” the official told reporters. “The onus right now is on Hamas.”

Biden has said he hopes a ceasefire will be in place by the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on March 10.

Biden and other world leaders are under growing pressure to ease the increasingly desperate plight of Palestinians after five months of war and Israeli blockade of Gaza. The United Nations says a quarter of the population – 576,000 people – is one step from famine.

Gaza health authorities reported that Israeli forces killed 118 people trying to reach a relief convoy near Gaza City on Thursday, prompting global outrage over the humanitarian catastrophe. A day later Biden announced plans for the US airdrop on Saturday, which also involved Jordanian forces.

Other countries including Jordan and France had already conducted airdrops of aid into Gaza.