The White House said on Monday that negotiators had presented Hamas with a proposal for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal, but that it was up to the Palestinian militant group to decide.

Talks in Cairo over the weekend involving CIA chief William Burns, Israel, Hamas, and Qatar were “serious,” but it was too early to say whether they would bear fruit, it said.

“Where we are now is that a proposal has been presented to Hamas, and we are waiting on Hamas’ response,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. “Now it’s going to be up to Hamas to come through.”

Kirby refused to discuss the specifics of the proposed deal, adding, “That would be one of the surest ways to torpedo that.” It was the first formal US confirmation that Central Intelligence Agency director Burns had flown to the Egyptian capital for the talks.

US President Joe Biden sent Burns just days after a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Biden warned of a change in US policy unless Israel took more steps to protect Gaza civilians.

Proposed Deal 

Senior Hamas sources stated the Islamist group is studying the latest ceasefire proposal, which includes a six-week truce and the release of 800 to 900 prisoners in exchange for freeing 42 Israeli women and child hostages, according to an Al Jazeera report. The deal also includes the release of 100 prisoners who are serving life sentences in the first phase of the deal and an agreement for displaced civilians to return to northern Gaza, which would not include age limits.

Senior Hamas official Ali Baraka told Reuters that the group has rejected the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal suggested at talks in Cairo, while a second official from the group had earlier informed the agency that no progress had been made.

The second stage includes the release of all Israeli prisoners, including soldiers and officers, in exchange for a number of Palestinian prisoners to be agreed upon in the coming days, the source added. Israel also reportedly agreed to open Gaza’s coastal road and Salaheddine Road to traffic, where Israeli troops will be stationed at least 500 meters from the two highways. Israel also agreed to allow the daily entry of 400 to 500 aid trucks to Gaza, including to the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

A third part of the deal would involve a permanent ceasefire and a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the Hamas source said.

Increased Humanitarian Aid

The American shift in policy came after Israeli drone strikes in Gaza killed seven aid workers from the US-based charity ‘World Central Kitchen’.

During the call, Biden also put greater pressure on Netanyahu over a ceasefire, urging him to “empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home,” the White House said.

Israel was now taking greater steps to get aid to Gaza, as Biden also demanded, Kirby said on Monday.

“Yesterday we saw more than 300 trucks enter Gaza, and that’s progress,” he said.

“But obviously, we need to see this number increase, and we need to see it sustained, to really address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller stated that Israel has agreed to open a crossing to deliver assistance directly to north Gaza that could be operational as early as this week.

Miller noted that the opening of Israel’s southern port of Ashdod to aid will significantly facilitate the flow of assistance. He also said that signs showed that the process of aid truck convoys traveling from Jordan through Israel into Gaza carrying essential supplies had been streamlined.

Rafah Offensive 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a date had been set for an offensive in the city of Rafah, which Israel says is one of the last Hamas strongholds in Gaza. He did not say when the invasion would occur but reiterated that victory over Hamas militants “requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen — there is a date,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

The United States stated it still opposed a major Israeli assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, following Netanyahu’s statements.

Israeli officials are also due to visit the White House in the coming days to hear US concerns over a proposed Israeli offensive on the southern city of Rafah.

Kirby said there was no sign that Israel’s announcement during the weekend that it was pulling troops out of Khan Younes, also in the south of Gaza, indicated that a Rafah operation was now on the cards.

“We don’t support a major ground operation in Rafah. We also don’t see any sign that such a major ground operation is imminent or that these troops are being repositioned for that kind of a ground operation.”

He spoke after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said troops had left “to prepare for future missions, including… in Rafah.”

Gallant also declared that the time was right to do a hostage deal with Hamas, a day after the military pulled out.

With indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on a Gaza truce and a hostage deal going on in Cairo, Gallant told Israeli Army recruits that “I think we are at an appropriate moment” to make a deal with the Islamist militants, six months into the war.