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Palestinians inspect destroyed residential buildings, after the Israeli military withdrew most of its ground troops from the southern Gaza Strip, in Khan Younis, April 7.Ahmed Zakot/Reuters

Hamas said on Tuesday that an Israeli proposal on a ceasefire in their war in Gaza did not meet the demands of Palestinian militant factions, but it would study the offer further and deliver its response to mediators.

The proposal was handed to the Palestinian Islamist movement by Egyptian and Qatari mediators at talks in Cairo that aim to find a way out of the devastating war in the Gaza Strip, now in its seventh month.

Residents said Israeli forces kept up airstrikes on Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza and Rafah on the enclave’s southern edge on Tuesday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly flagged plans for a ground assault on Rafah, where more than one million displaced civilians are holed up, despite international pleas for restraint.

The talks in Cairo, also attended by the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency William Burns, have so far failed to reach a breakthrough towards pausing the war.

“The movement (Hamas) is interested in reaching an agreement that puts an end to the aggression on our people. Despite that, the Israeli position remains intransigent and it didn’t meet any of the demands of our people and our resistance,” Hamas said in a statement following the latest ceasefire proposal.

It said it would review the proposal further and go back to the mediators with its response.

Hamas wants any agreement to secure an end to the Israeli military offensive, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and to allow displaced people to return to their homes across the small, densely populated enclave.

Israel’s immediate aim is to secure the release of hostages seized by Hamas in the Oct. 7 cross-border rampage that triggered the conflict. It says it will not end the war until it annihilates Hamas, which has run Gaza since 2007.

The United States is pushing hard for a ceasefire, after telling its ally Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza and let in more aid to prevent a famine.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said 400 aid trucks had been cleared to enter Gaza the previous day, describing it as the most since the war started six months ago. He said a good ceasefire offer had been presented to Hamas, which should accept it.

Israel says aid is moving into Gaza more quickly after international pressure to increase access, but the amount is disputed and the United Nations says it is still much less than the bare minimum to meet humanitarian needs.

Israel pulled back most of its ground forces from southern Gaza this week after months of fighting, but still says it plans to launch an assault on Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, where more than half of Gazans are now sheltering.

In one of the first signs of concrete preparations for a ground assault, Israeli media reported on Tuesday that the Israeli defence ministry was purchasing 40,000 tents ahead of an evacuation of the city.

The United States has warned Israel not to storm Rafah due to the high risk of civilian casualties and U.S. and Israeli officials will meet in person in a couple of weeks to discuss the matter, the White House said on Tuesday.

“I don’t anticipate any actions being taken before those talks, and for that matter I don’t see anything imminent … It remains our conviction that major military operations in Rafah would be extremely dangerous for civilians who would be caught in harm’s way,” Blinken told reporters in Washington.

Of the 253 hostages Hamas seized in its Oct. 7 raid, 133 remain captive. Negotiators have spoken of around 40 going free in the first stage of a deal.

Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people in southern Israel in the lightning Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli tallies. At least 33,360 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in six months of war, Gaza’s health ministry said in an update on Tuesday, with thousands more dead feared unrecovered in the rubble.

Most of the enclave’s 2.3 million people are homeless and many at risk of famine.

Palestinian emergency teams supported by international organizations scoured the rubble of Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and the shattered city of Khan Younis in the south following the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

So far the teams have recovered 409 bodies of Palestinians killed in the hospital and its surrounding neighbourhood and in Khan Younis, according to Mahmoud Basal, spokesperson for the Hamas-run Gaza Civil Emergency Service. Israel said Al Shifa was used as a militant base, which Hamas denies.

An Israeli airstrike on a municipality building in the Al-Maghazi camp in central Gaza killed the head of its council, Hatem Al-Ghamri, and four other civilians, the Hamas-run government media office and medics said.

The Israeli military said it had eliminated Ghamri, who it described as a military operative in Hamas’ Maghazi Battalion involved in rocket launches against Israel.

Stunned Palestinians found their home city unrecognizable April 8 as they returned to Gaza's Khan Younis after Israeli troops withdrew from the city after months of fighting and bombardment.

The Associated Press

Israel says aid is moving into Gaza more quickly after international pressure to increase access, but the amount is disputed and the United Nations says it is still much less than the bare minimum to meet humanitarian needs.

Israel said 419 trucks – the highest since the conflict began – entered on Monday, though the Red Crescent and United Nations gave much lower figures, with the U.N. saying many were only half full because of Israeli inspection rules.

Six months into Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza, triggered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, the devastated Palestinian enclave faces famine and widespread disease with nearly all its inhabitants now homeless.

Aid agencies have complained that Israel is not ensuring enough access for food, medicine and other needed humanitarian supplies and the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has accused it of using starvation as a weapon of war.

U.N. humanitarian agency (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke also pointed to severe restrictions on delivery of aid inside Gaza itself last month, saying Israel had denied permission for half the convoys it tried sending to the north in March, with U.N. aid convoys three times more likely to be refused than any other.

COGAT, the Israeli military department responsible for aid transfers, denies it is hindering humanitarian relief into Gaza, saying there is no limit on supplies for civilians and blaming delays on the United Nations, which it says is inefficient.

“Yesterday alone enough food went into Gaza to feed every single person there. The U.N. fails to distribute it and Hamas steals it,” said David Mencer, spokesperson at Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate.

International pressure on Israel sharpened last week, including from its closest ally the United States, after it targeted an aid convoy, killing international relief workers.

France has said more pressure, and possibly sanctions, must be imposed on Israel to open crossings to get in more humanitarian aid.

Israel said on Friday it would open the closed Erez crossing point into northern Gaza from Israel for aid supplies, approve more Jordanian aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south and temporarily allow its Ashdod port to be used for aid.

Erez, the main crossing into northern Gaza before the war, has been closed since it was destroyed on Oct. 7. Israel imposed a total blockade at the start of the war, but has gradually allowed in aid, first through the Rafah crossing from Egypt and then the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel itself.

None of the trucks that entered Gaza on Monday went through Erez.

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