The first airdrops of US aid over Gaza began on Saturday, following President Biden’s call for an immediate ceasefire, marking the first such call since Israel began its war on Gaza in October. However, President Biden expressed dissatisfaction, stating that the amount of aid reaching Gaza was insufficient and that the US would intensify efforts to increase aid.

Biden’s comments follow several days of increasing signals from the administration about a ceasefire. Despite his earlier hope for one by the following Monday, he clarified on Friday that it has not yet been achieved and emphasised the need for more aid distribution. The US Central Command reported that the humanitarian aid drops were coordinated with Jordan, forming part of an ongoing effort to increase aid to Gaza through land corridors and routes.

The United States military has released footage on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing its personnel actively involved in preparing aid packages destined for Gaza. The release follows the US Central Command’s announcement about airdropping 38,000 meals into Gaza as part of the humanitarian assistance provided by the United States.

Vice-President Kamala Harris is set to meet with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday. The talks between Harris and Gantz are expected to address critical issues, including efforts to reduce civilian casualties among Palestinians, secure a temporary ceasefire, facilitate the release of hostages held in Gaza, and increase aid to the territory.

A White House official expressed the vice president’s concern for the safety of the approximately 1.5 million people in Rafah. The official also acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself in the face of ongoing “threats” posed by Hamas. Gantz, Israel’s former military chief and defence minister, confirmed the trip and updated Prime Minister Netanyahu on his intention to travel, aiming to coordinate the messages conveyed in the meetings.

Hopes for a ceasefire have gained momentum as Israel is reportedly nearing acceptance of a proposed six-week pause in hostilities. A senior Biden administration official shared this information with several US news outlets, indicating a “framework deal,” Israel has “more or less accepted” the ceasefire terms. Truce talks are expected to resume in Egypt on Sunday, although the details beyond a possible six-week pause in Israeli attacks remain unclear, despite US officials’ claims that a ceasefire is near.

The news comes two days after an incident where Israeli forces killed over 100 Palestinian civilians rushing for aid in Gaza City. The proposed ceasefire aims to facilitate the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and to allow much-needed aid into the territory.

However, a significant hurdle in reaching a final agreement is the reluctance of Hamas to agree on a defined category of vulnerable hostages.

The senior Biden administration official mentioned the possibility of a second phase in the initial ceasefire, aiming to “build something more enduring.” Progress had previously been indicated in talks for a ceasefire agreement by the holy month of Ramadan starting on 10 March.

The ceasefire agreement discussions involve Qatar, Egypt, Israel, and the US, held in Paris and Doha. Additional talks are planned in Cairo, with representatives from the US, Israel, Egypt, and Hamas expected to attend.

Amid the ceasefire talks, Israeli forces continue to pound Gaza, with overnight attacks reported in Rafah, Deir el-Balah, and Khan Younis. Israeli forces have conducted raids in the occupied West Bank, including a significant operation in Tulkarem. The homes of two individuals in Tulkarem were raided, and Israeli troops interrogated the occupants. Other locations targeted in the raids include the Al-Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron. The towns of Azzun and Jayyous in Qalqilya were also subject to Israeli military operations.

Israel has killed 30,320 Palestinians and wounded 71,533 others in its deadly offensive on Gaza which began on 7 October.

Meanwhile, UNICEF chief Catherine Russell has called for an immediate ceasefire, stressing that “every minute counts” for the children in Gaza who are facing malnutrition. The recent Israeli attack which killed 11 civilians living in tents in Rafah has been denounced as “outrageous and unspeakable” by the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.