A Hamas delegation, led by spokesman Osama Hamdan, has arrived in Egypt for what appears to be critical negotiations. Hamdan stated that “some forward steps” have been made.  Simultaneously, a Qatari delegation is headed to Cairo.

Reports suggest the emergence of a potential breakthrough, with Israel purportedly accepting a new proposal for a 40-day cessation of hostilities and a swap of hostages for thousands of Palestinians held by Israel.

The United States, Egypt, and Qatar have been actively involved in mediating the ceasefire negotiations, which have persisted for seven months. The last ceasefire in November saw the exchange of 80 Israeli hostages for 240 Palestinian detainees.

Mediators from Egypt and the United States have noted signs of compromise in recent discussions. Egyptian state media hinted at a consensus in the talks, although specific details remain undisclosed.

The negotiations have stumbled over the fundamental issue of reconciling Hamas’s insistence on a sustainable ceasefire with Israel’s apparent determination to crush any resistance to its 75-year military occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Despite the ongoing diplomatic efforts and fears of heavy civilian casualties, Israel has vowed to launch a military offensive in Rafah, the last refuge for 1.5 million Palestinians.

The United States has intensified pressure on Hamas to accept the latest proposal.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, known for his unconditional support for Israel, blamed Hamas for the failure to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. Hamas quickly rebuffed Blinken’s claim, pointing to his apparent bias towards Israel.

Blinken also reiterated the US’s reservations against a potential offensive in Rafah. He emphasised concerns about the safety of over 1.2 million displaced civilians seeking refuge in the area’s refugee camps and UN shelters, stressing that without a credible plan to safeguard civilians, the US could not endorse a significant military operation in Rafah due to the anticipated devastating consequences.

Humanitarian organisations and the United Nations have joined in urging Israel to abandon plans for a Rafah attack. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned against a full-scale military operation in Rafah, warning of the potential for a catastrophic loss of life and further strain on Gaza’s already fragile healthcare system.

Israeli airstrikes conducted early Saturday in Gaza killed several Palestinians. Three bodies were recovered from a building in Rafah and transported to Yousef al-Najjar hospital, while another Israeli strike on the Nuseirat refugee camp killed three Palestinians, according to hospital officials.

In the town of Deir al-Ghusun in the Tulkarem district, Israeli forces killed five Palestinians during a raid. The victims, aged between 32 and 45, were gunned down in their homes, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The raid lasted 15 hours and ended with the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Over the past 24 hours, Gaza’s health ministry reported that local hospitals received the bodies of 32 individuals killed by Israeli airstrikes.

Since the start of its war on Gaza on 7 October, Israel has killed at least 34,654 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and wounded 77,908 others. Israeli forces have also destroyed nearly 75 percent of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure, including homes, hospitals, schools, and places of worship, while also blocking the entry of essential aid into the occupied enclave, pushing the population of 2.5 million people to starvation.

The UN World Food Programme described northern Gaza as experiencing a “full-blown famine.”

World Central Kitchen, a US-based charity, resumed operations after a pause following Israeli drone strikes that killed seven aid workers in April.