Gaza truce 'possible within 24-48 hours' if Israel accepts terms, Hamas says

Gaza truce 'possible within 24-48 hours' if Israel accepts terms, Hamas says
Hamas has requested that Israel's military withdraws from Gaza and that humanitarian aid deliveries are accelerated as part of its ceasefire demands.
4 min read
Israel has waged a war in Gaza for almost five months, with the death surpassing 30,000 [Getty/file photo]

Egypt will host on Sunday the latest talks aiming for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as Ministry of Health officials reported more deadly bombardment in the nearly five-month-old war.

A senior Hamas official told AFP that a delegation from the Palestinian group would discuss with mediators a proposal for a six-week truce after a US official said Israel had "more or less accepted" its terms.

Envoys from the United States, Qatar and Hamas have arrived in Cairo, state-linked media reported, as all sides have been scrambling to lock in a truce before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that begins on March 10 or 11.

The Hamas official said that if Israel were to meet its demands - which include a military withdrawal from Gaza and stepped-up humanitarian aid - this would "pave the way for an agreement within the next 24-48 hours".

The health ministry in the war-hit Gaza Strip said at least 90 Palestinians had been killed in the past 24 hours, including 14 family members whose house in the southern Rafah refugee camp had been hit.

In a sign of the worsening humanitarian crisis in the narrow coastal territory, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said at least 16 children had died of malnutrition in recent days as "famine spreads in the Strip's north".

Israel's top ally the United States on Saturday began airdropping aid into war-ravaged and besieged Gaza, which has faced lacklustre deliveries of relief supplies across its land borders.

The Hamas official said the group would demand "the entry of at least 400 to 500 trucks per day" carrying food, medicine and fuel as part of the truce deal.

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The US official, speaking to reporters late Saturday, said "there's a framework deal" for a ceasefire which "the Israelis have more or less accepted".

Israel had yet to confirm that it had accepted the truce plan or whether it would attend the Cairo talks.

A ceasefire could start "today if Hamas agrees to release the defined category of vulnerable hostages, the sick, the wounded, elderly and women," the US official said.

"Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas."

Osama Hamdan, a Lebanon-based Hamas official, told Qatar's Al-Araby TV that the group insisted on a complete, rather than "temporary", ceasefire and on "ending the aggression against our people".

'Acute food insecurity'

With fears of widespread famine mounting, US military planes parachuted "over 38,000 meals" into Gaza, US Central Command said, joining several Arab and European governments that have carried out airdrops since November.

But officials and aid groups have said such operations cannot replace overland aid access.

The UN Security Council voiced concern over "alarming levels of acute food insecurity", highlighted by a desperate rush for aid from a convoy of trucks in Gaza City on Thursday that ended in the deaths of over 100 Palestinians, as Israeli forces shot and killed them in an incident described as 'appalling' by rights groups.

In a statement on Saturday, the council stressed "the need to take all necessary measures to protect civilians" and urged "parties to the conflict to allow, facilitate and enable the immediate, rapid, safe, sustained and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale".

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Several foreign leaders have called for an investigation into the aid truck storming, which the Gaza health ministry said resulted in the deaths of 116 people.

The ministry said Israeli forces shot civilians, but the Israeli army claims most died in a stampede or crush.

A United Nations team that visited a Gaza City hospital reported seeing "a large number" of gunshot wounds among Palestinians in the aftermath of the incident.

The aid convoy deaths pushed the war death toll in Gaza to at least 30,410, mostly women and children, the health ministry said Sunday.

Israel has gone on to impose a complete siege, plunging the already-impoverished territory into a dire humanitarian situation. Tel Aviv has gone on to ruthlessly bomb schools, residential buildings, hospitals and other key infrastructure - with many rights groups and nations labelling the country's actions as akin to genocide.

50 targets 

An AFP correspondent in southern Gaza, near the border with Egypt, said several air strikes hit Rafah and Khan Younis during the night.

Hamas' media office also reported intense tank shelling in northern Gaza.

The Israeli military claimed its forces had carried out "an extensive series of strikes on terror targets" in Khan Younis, south Gaza's main city that has become the target of Israeli shelling and bombardment in recent weeks.

About 50 targets including "underground terrorist infrastructure" and military sites were hit "within six minutes", the army said.

In Rafah, where more than one million Gazans displaced by the war have sought refuge, Israeli bombardment late Saturday killed 11 people at a makeshift camp near a hospital, the health ministry said.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced mounting calls to secure the release of the remaining hostages, as well as pressure from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.

Rallies were held on Saturday in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where a relative of one of the captives said he hoped freeing them was a top priority.