US claims Israel more or less accepted six week ceasefire

Israel has “more or less accepted” a proposal for a six-week ceasefire in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a US official said on Saturday (Mar 2) as Palestinian negotiators were expected in Cairo.

Mediators have been scrambling to lock in a truce before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which begins on Mar 10 or 11, eyeing an end to the almost five-month conflict that has ravaged Hamas-ruled Gaza.

In a sign of the dire humanitarian conditions, as violence rages on, the besieged territory’s health ministry reported more than a dozen child malnutrition deaths in recent days.

The US official told reporters on condition of anonymity that “there’s a framework deal” for a ceasefire which “the Israelis have more or less accepted”.

“It will be a six-week ceasefire in Gaza, starting today if Hamas agrees to release the defined category of vulnerable hostages … the sick, the wounded, elderly and women,” the official said.

“Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas.”

A source close to Hamas told AFP a delegation from the group was headed from Qatar to Egypt on Saturday.

Also speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said that Hamas would deliver its “official answer” to the plan, which resulted from talks with Israeli negotiators in Paris late last month.

Israel has yet to confirm that it has accepted the truce plan.

Earlier the United States, which provides ally Israel with billions of dollars in military aid, said it began airdropping aid into war-ravaged Gaza.

The start of the US relief operation came a day after President Joe Biden announced the move and spoke of the “need to do more” to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis.

But parachuting aid cannot replace “the fundamental need to move assistance through as many land crossings as possible”, the US official said.