Israel has agreed to put in place four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in its assault on northern Gaza, the White House has said.
This was according to two officials from Egypt, one from the United Nations, and a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It was not clear if there was any link with the ceasefire negotiations.
The ceasefire deal would enable more aid, including limited amounts of fuel, to enter the besieged and bombed Palestinian territory to alleviate worsening conditions for the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped there.
However Israel's indiscriminate war on Gaza is continuing, with Israeli air strikes hitting Gaza City on Thursday amid clashes between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes southwards in the besieged territory to escape the Israeli strikes, which have killed entire families.
After more than a month of intense bombardment, hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped in a "dire humanitarian situation" in urban battle zones without enough food and water, the United Nations has said.
The reported ceasefire deal is being brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States, according to the officials. One of the Egyptian officials says details of the deal were discussed this week in Cairo with the visiting CIA chief and an Israeli delegation. He said mediators are finalising a draft deal.
Under the deal, Hamas would release a dozen civilian hostages, most of them foreign passport holders, and provide a complete list of hostages to mediators, according to the officials. The International Committee of the Red Cross would be allowed to visit the hostages.
A senior US official said the Biden administration has not put forward any specific time frame for a pause in Israel's attacks but has suggested that Israel consider tying the length of a pause to the release of a certain number of hostages.
If an agreement on the duration of the pause and the number of hostages to be freed can be reached and the deal successfully implemented, the same formula could be revisited for additional pauses and releases, according to the official.
A three-day ceasefire would allow the delivery of humanitarian aid across Gaza, including the northern area, the main focus of Israel’s deadly strikes. Under the proposed deal, some fuel would also enter Gaza for the first time since the start of the war, to be distributed to hospitals and bakeries under UN supervision.
The diplomat said the talks are complex because of the involvement of different parties in the region and in Western capitals.
Featured images: Getty