PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, March 2 — A Hamas delegation was expected to fly to Cairo today for talks on a truce in Gaza, a source close to the group told AFP, as mediators scrambled to secure a deal.

Egyptian, Qatari and US go-betweens have been shuttling between Israeli and Hamas negotiators, trying to secure a pause in fighting before the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

Both Washington and Doha had voiced hope a ceasefire could go into effect as early as next week but US President Joe Biden said Thursday that a deal would take longer after more than 100 Palestinian civilians were killed rushing an aid convoy in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas delegation will “meet with Egyptians overseeing the ceasefire negotiations, to follow up on the negotiation developments that aim to stop the offensive and the war, and to reach a hostage exchange deal,” said the source close to Hamas, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

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The source said the delegation would submit Hamas’s “official answer” to a proposal thrashed out with Israeli negotiators in Paris late last month.

A Hamas source told AFP earlier this week that under the proposal, a truce would last for six weeks, with Hamas releasing 42 hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

On Thursday, the White House said the hostage release “would result in an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza over a period of at least six weeks”.

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The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 30,320 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.

The only previous truce in the war lasted for one week in late November.

In addition to halting Israel’s offensive, Hamas wants new truce terms to ensure immediate humanitarian relief for Gazans, an Israeli withdrawal and the return of Gazans displaced from the north, said the source close to the group. — AFP