Israel has proposed a two-month pause in fighting in Gaza in exchange for the release of all remaining hostages held in the territory, US media has reported.
Officials have offered the deal to Hamas through mediators in Qatar and Egypt, the political website Axios reported, citing top Israeli officials. It would not include any agreement to end the war.
More than 130 hostages are thought to still be held by the militant group and its affiliates, although several dozen are thought to have died since they were seized in the terror attack on Oct 7.
Washington has been heavily involved in negotiations towards a deal to secure the release of hostages, with Joe Biden under growing pressure from the Left wing of the Democratic Party to procure a protracted peace.
Mr Biden has rejected calls for him to demand a cease fire but John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said on Monday the US president supports a pause to enable the release of Israeli captives and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Mr Biden’s senior Middle East adviser, Brett McGurk, travelled to Egypt on Sunday. He was due to continue on to Qatar, a key intermediary between Israel and Hamas.
American officials told Axios that reaching such an agreement might be the only viable path to a ceasefire in Gaza.
Israeli officials are understood to be awaiting a response from Hamas, but are “cautiously optimistic”, according to Axios.
Under a deal brokered in late November by the US, Qatar and Egypt, more than 100 of the estimated 240 hostages taken to Gaza during the Oct 7 attack were freed in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians prisoners in Israeli jails.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, has faced intensive domestic criticism from the families of remaining hostages who are in anguish over the fate of their relatives who have been held for more than three months.
At least 25,295 Gazans have been killed since the war began, the Hamas-run health ministry said on Monday. Most of that number are women and children, it said.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are now penned into Rafah just south of Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah just north of it, crammed into public buildings and camps of tents made from plastic sheets lashed to wooden frames.
The Israeli military announced on Monday that 200 of its soldiers have been killed in the territory since its ground operations began in late October.
EU intends to press ahead with peace talks
Meanwhile, the European Union intends to press ahead with peace talks to end the war in Gaza without the involvement of Israel, according to an internal document.
A 12-point peace plan drawn up by the Brussels foreign affairs arm states that it is “unrealistic to assume that Israelis and Palestinians will shortly directly engage in bilateral peace negotiations”.
Instead, the bloc proposed parallel talks with the United States, United Nations, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States, while threatening “consequences” against Israel if it refuses to engage.
“Palestinians will need a revitalised political alternative to Hamas, while Israelis will need to find the political will to engage in meaningful negotiations towards the two-state solution,” the document, circulated to European capitals and seen by The Telegraph, says.