Truce talks in Gaza are due to resume this weekend in Cairo, where Joe Biden has urged negotiators to convince Hamas, while Iran is preparing its retaliation to Israel’s attack on its Damascus consulate.

American and Israeli negotiators were expected in Cairo over the weekend for a renewed push to reach a ceasefire-hostage deal in a war that has raged for nearly half a year.

Ahead of the talks, US President Joe Biden wrote to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, urging them to dial up pressure on Hamas to “agree to and abide by a deal,” a senior administration official told AFP on Friday night.

During a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden pushed him to “fully empower” his negotiators to reach a deal.

With both international and domestic outrage mounting, Biden has warned of a reassessment of US support if more is not done to protect civilians.

Allies have been pressing Biden to leverage the billions of dollars in US military aid to Israel.

More than three dozen US lawmakers signed a letter to Biden on Friday, urging him to reconsider the “recent decision to authorize the transfer of a new arms package to Israel and to withhold this and any future offensive arms transfers until a full investigation into the airstrike is completed.”

Iranian Retaliation Expected

The war has also consumed much of the wider region, with hostilities between Israel and Iran and its proxies triggering fears of a broader conflict.

In Iran, thousands of people chanted “death to Israel” at a funeral in Tehran on Friday that coincided with annual commemorations in support of Palestinians.

Iran has blamed Israel for a strike on its consulate in Damascus that killed seven Revolutionary Guards and has vowed retaliation. Tehran has placed its armed forces on “full high alert,” while “a decision has been made that Iran must respond directly to the Damascus attack to create deterrence,” reported the New York Times, citing two Iranian officials.

And a Biden senior administration official told CNN US that the US is on high alert and actively preparing for a “significant” attack that could come as soon as within the next week by Iran targeting Israeli or American assets in the Middle East.

‘Inhumane Ferocity’

The Israeli Army announced it was firing two officers after finding a series of “grave mistakes” that led to the drone strikes that killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers on Monday.

It was a rare admission of wrongdoing by Israel in its campaign to root the militant group Hamas out of the Gaza Strip, where the local health ministry says more than 33,091 people, mostly women and children, have been killed.

In response to the Israeli Army’s preliminary findings on the strike, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Saturday it was “not sufficient.”

World Central Kitchen said Israel “cannot credibly investigate its own failure in Gaza,” noting that its staff was attacked despite having “followed all proper communications procedures.”

WCK said its operations in Gaza remain suspended after the attack, while top global aid groups said relief work has become almost impossible.

“In its speed, scale, and inhumane ferocity, the war in Gaza is the deadliest of conflicts — for civilians, for aid workers, for journalists, for health workers, and for our own (UN) colleagues,” UN chief Antonio Guterres told a UN Security Council briefing on Friday.

At the same briefing, Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan insisted the “only reason” aid fails to reach Gazan civilians “is because Hamas loots it and the UN is incapable of handling the capacity of supplies.”

Following the Biden-Netanyahu call, Israel said it would allow “temporary” deliveries through additional aid routes, without specifying when that would begin.

MP, Belal AlSabbagh, Fiachra Gibbons, with AFP