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Gaza truce talks expected as fighting rages on


Rubble at the al-Bukhari mosque in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. /CFP
Rubble at the al-Bukhari mosque in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. /CFP

Rubble at the al-Bukhari mosque in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, March 2, 2024. /CFP

Israel has essentially endorsed a framework of a proposed Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal, a senior U.S. administration official said Saturday, a day before talks to reach an agreement were to resume in Egypt, the Associated Press reported.

"The path to a ceasefire right now, literally at this hour, is straightforward. And there's a deal on the table. There's a framework deal. The Israelis have more or less accepted it," the official told reporters. "The onus right now is on Hamas."

International mediators have been working for weeks to broker a deal to pause the fighting before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins around March 10. 

Israeli and Hamas delegations were expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday, two Egyptian security sources said, although another source briefed on the talks said Israel would not send a delegation until it got a full list of hostages who are still alive, Reuters reported.

On Saturday, Jordan and the U.S. jointly carried out airdrops of aid to Gaza, the first time the U.S. participated in the multinational humanitarian effort.

Two aircraft from the Jordan Armed Forces airdropped in the northern Gaza Strip, while three aircraft belonging to the U.S. Air Force airdropped in the south, state-run Petra news agency reported.

The U.S. Air Force said its three planes carried 66 bundles containing about 38,000 meals. However, they fall far short of the assistance needed by the territory's 2.2 million people. 

Aid groups have emphasized that airdrops should only be a last resort, instead urging the opening of other crossings into Gaza and removing obstacles at the few that are open.

Fights rage on

Fighting raged in the early hours of Sunday as residents reported the sound of heavy shelling and tanks advancing around Khan Younis, a city in the southern Gaza Strip.

Around Rafah, another southern city where more than 1 million Palestinians have been seeking refuge on the border with Egypt, authorities said 25 people were killed on Saturday and into Sunday morning. They included 11 who died when an Israeli airstrike hit a tent near a hospital and another 14 in one family, who died when a strike hit a house.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed it targeted "Islamic Jihad terrorists" in Rafah on Saturday and that the hospital in the area was not damaged.

(With input from agencies)

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