The White House stated on Tuesday that the response by Hamas to proposals for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal at talks in Cairo has so far been “less than encouraging.”

“We’ve seen the public statements from Hamas that have been, shall we say, less than encouraging,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, adding, however, that mediator Qatar had not received a final answer yet from the group.

Hamas said it was “studying” a new proposal for a temporary truce, submitted during the talks with US, Qatari, and Egyptian mediators.

Under the plan, fighting would stop for six weeks, about 40 women and child hostages would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and up to 500 aid trucks would enter Gaza per day, a Hamas source said.

Hamas said it “appreciates” the mediators’ latest efforts but accused Israel of failing to respond to its demands, including a full withdrawal of forces from Gaza.

Netanyahu stressed — despite growing pressure from top ally the United States — that Israel would pursue the twin goals of bringing home “all our hostages” and destroying Hamas after its October 7 attack.

In a video message on Monday, the premier said Israeli forces would storm Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah on the Egyptian border, despite global concern for the fate of around 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering there.

“This victory requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there,” Netanyahu said. “It will happen — there is a date,” he vowed without saying when he plans to send troops into the last city in Gaza yet to face a ground invasion. He reiterated that message on Tuesday during a visit to a military base, saying, “No force in the world will stop us.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel had not shared with Washington “any date for an operation” in Rafah, while Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that Israel had not yet set a date for the announced offensive.

US officials renewed their objections to a Rafah operation following a phone call last week between President Joe Biden and Netanyahu.

Israel has invited tenders for 40,000 large tents, according to a document on the defense ministry website — part of its preparations to evacuate Rafah ahead of an offensive, a government source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Relief Efforts Peak

Under pressure to step up aid deliveries, it allowed in 419 aid trucks on Monday. That is still below the levels the UN says entered the Gaza Strip before the war devastated the territory and its economy.

Israeli officials have blamed aid agencies for not distributing the aid, but those agencies have hit back, blaming Israeli restrictions.

Speaking in Geneva, Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations’ humanitarian agency, called the figures provided by Israel on aid distribution “meaningless.” Laerke added that food aid was three times more likely to be blocked by Israel than any other kind of aid.

Screening rules, delays at crossings, restrictions on drivers, and, most significantly, getting authorization and assurances from the military that distribution can go ahead unimpeded are combined to prevent aid distribution, he said.

Israel has faced a chorus of global calls to halt the fighting and ease the suffering, including from France, Egypt, and Jordan.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné, demanding that vastly more aid be allowed into Gaza, said there are multiple “levers of influence” available, including sanctions.

Turkey said it would impose trade restrictions on Israel, covering cement and steel, sparking an Israeli vow to take retaliatory steps.

Israeli Bombing Persists

Israel bombed targets in Gaza on Tuesday after Netanyahu insisted the Army would destroy Hamas despite the ongoing Cairo talks.

The Army said it had destroyed “terrorist infrastructure” across Gaza and an “aircraft eliminated a terrorist in Khan Younes who participated in the October 7 massacre.”

In the central Gaza Strip, “troops eliminated a number of terrorists in close-quarter combat,” it said. “Several additional terrorists who posed a threat to the troops were eliminated by aircraft strikes and precise sniper fire.”

The war has so far resulted in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

Palestinian militants also took more than 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 the Israeli Army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,360 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.


Belal AlSabbagh and Fiachra Gibbons, with AFP