Israel reportedly close to accepting six-week Gaza ceasefire, US official says

<span>An Israeli military tank drives along the Israel-Gaza border as it returns from the Gaza strip, in southern Israel, on 2 March 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters</span>
An Israeli military tank drives along the Israel-Gaza border as it returns from the Gaza strip, in southern Israel, on 2 March 2024.Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters
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Israel is reported to be close to accepting a six-week ceasefire proposal for Gaza, a senior Biden administration official told several US news outlets on Saturday, two days after more than 100 Palestinians died while attempting to access aid trucks in the territory.

The official said that there is a “framework deal” and Israel has “more or less accepted” a ceasefire to allow for the release of Hamas-held hostages in Gaza and to allow aid into the territory that has been devastated by four months of bombardment, killing more than 30,000 people.

Related: US aircraft carry out airdrops of aid to Gaza with 38,000 meals

However, the official said that Hamas has not yet agreed to a “defined category of vulnerable hostages” – a sticking point to an agreement. Israel has reportedly said that ceasefire talks would not continue until Hamas presents a list of the hostages, including who is alive and who is dead.

The official added that a second phase “to build something more enduring” would be worked out during the initial ceasefire.

On Friday, US officials said that talks to reach an agreement to halt the fighting by the Muslim holiday of Ramadan – which begins on 10 March - appeared to be progressing, but warned that a ceasefire agreement depended on a Hamas response to talks held in Paris and Doha involving Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the US.

More talks are planned in Cairo, with negotiators from the US, Israel, Egypt and Hamas expected to attend, a diplomatic source told CNN, with or without the involvement of Qatar.

The first airdrops of US aid over the territory began Saturday, a day after President Biden issued a call for an “immediate ceasefire” – the first Biden has issued since the conflict began in October.

But the US president said in a post on X that the amount of aid flowing into Gaza was “not nearly enough”, adding that the US “will continue to pull out every stop we can to get more aid in”.

The comments came after days of increasing signaling from the administration about a ceasefire. On Tuesday, Biden said he hoped for one by the following Monday. But on Friday he said “it’s not there yet”, adding that the US would insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need.

US Central Command said the humanitarian aid drops, co-ordinated between the US and Jordan, were “part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza, including by expanding the flow of aid through land corridors and routes”.

The aid, and repeat signals of progress in ceasefire talks, come days after more than 100,000 voters in the key swing state of Michigan signaled their anger at the administration’s handling of the crisis by voting “uncommitted” in the state’s Democratic primary.

Signs that the administration is more willing to make public its push for a ceasefire came Saturday when Reuters reported that vice-president Kamala Harris will meet with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday.

The talks are expected to include efforts to reduce Palestinian civilian casualties, securing a temporary ceasefire, securing the release of hostages held in Gaza and increasing aid to the territory, a White House official said.

“The vice-president will express her concern over the safety of the as many as 1.5 million people in Rafah,” the official said, adding that Israel also had a “right to defend itself in the face of continued Hamas terrorist threats”.

Gantz, Israel’s former military chief and defense minister and political foe of prime minister Netanyahu, confirmed the trip.

“Minister Gantz personally updated the prime minister on his own initiative on Friday of his intention to travel, in order to coordinate the messages to be transmitted in the meetings,” the statement said.