US, Qatar hope for Israel-Hamas truce within days

Mediator Qatar expressed hopes Tuesday that a new truce between Israel and Hamas could be secured within days, after U.S. President Joe Biden said a ceasefire could start next week and last through Ramadan.

As a dire humanitarian crisis unfolds in Gaza, the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA and the United States appealed for aid to be allowed into the war-battered Palestinian territory.

Egyptian, Qatari and U.S. mediators have been in a protracted bid to broker a ceasefire nearly five months into the devastating war.

Negotiators are seeking a six-week pause and the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's Oct.. 7 attack.

Several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel may also be released under the deal, media reports suggest.

"My hope is by next Monday we'll have a ceasefire" but "we're not done yet", Biden said.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it was possible a deal could be reached by the weekend.

"We're closer today than we were yesterday," he said, adding details were still being ironed out.

Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani -- whose country hosts Hamas's political leadership and helped broker a one-week truce in November -- met in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said Doha was "hopeful, not necessarily optimistic, that we can announce something" before Thursday.

"We are going to push for a pause before the beginning of Ramadan", the Muslim fasting month which starts on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar, Ansari said.

"But the situation is still fluid on the ground."

 'Nothing but dust' 

There has been huge international pressure for...

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