Fresh Gaza ceasefire talks to be held in Cairo this weekend

Fresh Gaza ceasefire talks to be held in Cairo this weekend
The ceasefire talks come amid increased pressure on Israel to allow greater amounts of aid into the Gaza Strip following the killing of seven WCK workers
3 min read
CIA chief Bill Burns is set to represent the US at the talks in Cairo [Getty]

A fresh round of talks aimed at arranging a Gaza ceasefire in exchange for hostages held by Hamas militants is being planned for Cairo this weekend with US representation, the White House said on Friday.

CIA Director Bill Burns will lead the US delegation, a US official said.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Thursday to empower his negotiators in Cairo so that a deal can be reached as soon as possible.

The United States and its allies view a ceasefire as essential to allowing more humanitarian aid to get into Gaza amid fears of famine among the Palestinians there.

Under the most recent proposal, Israel and Hamas would agree to a six-week ceasefire in exchange for the release of sick, elderly and wounded hostages held by Hamas. Progress on a deal has been stalled for weeks.

"Let's get a deal in place so that we can get a ceasefire for a matter of weeks in place, so that it's easier to meet those commitments on humanitarian assistance being increased," Kirby told reporters on Friday.

Kirby said there were no plans by the United States to conduct an independent investigation into the killings of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers.

The Israeli military dismissed two officers and formally reprimanded senior commanders after an inquiry into the killing of the aid workers in a Gaza airstrike this week found serious errors and breaches of procedure.

33,091 Palestinians have also been killed in Israel's war on Gaza, most of whom are women and children, with a further 75,750 injured.

Israel's conduct in Gaza has resulted in it being referred to the International Court of Justice by South Africa. A preliminary verdict in January stated it was plausible Israel's actions amount to genocide.

Netanyahu had briefed Biden in their phone call on Thursday on the general findings of Israel's inquiry into the incident. Biden warned Netanyahu that Israel must take steps to address civilian harm and humanitarian suffering or else Washington will take unspecified steps in response.

Israel also announced it was opening the Ashdod port and Erez crossing to increase the flow of aid into Gaza.

Biden, asked if he had threatened to withhold military support for Israel, told reporters on Friday: "I asked them to do what they’re doing."