Progress reported in Gaza ceasefire talks - but Israel plays down end to war

An Israeli official has downplayed the prospects for a full end to the war in Gaza as Egyptian state media reported "noticeable progress" in ceasefire talks.

A Hamas delegation was in Cairo on Saturday with pressure mounting to reach a deal to stop the conflict, sparked when the Palestinian militant group attacked southern Israel on 7 October, abducting around 250 people and killing around 1,200.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed, including 32 in the past 24 hours, and more than 77,000 have been wounded in Israel's military operation, according to Gaza's health ministry.

Egyptian and US mediators have reported signs of compromise in recent days but chances for a ceasefire deal hinge on the key question of whether Israel will accept an end to the war without achieving the stated aim of destroying Hamas.

Taher al Nono, a Hamas official and advisor to Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, said meetings with Egyptian and Qatari mediators had begun and the group was dealing with their proposals "with full seriousness and responsibility".

But he reiterated Hamas' demand that any deal should include an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and an end to the war - conditions that Israel has previously rejected.

Egypt's state-owned al Qahera News TV channel said on Saturday a consensus had been reached over many disputed points.

A senior Israeli official, speaking anonymously, played down the prospects for a full end to the war, saying Israel was committed to an offensive into Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering.

The official said Israel will not agree in any circumstance to end the war as part of a deal to release hostages.

The proposal Egyptian mediators had put to Hamas sets out a three-stage process that would bring an immediate, six-week ceasefire and partial release of Israeli hostages, and would include some sort of Israeli pull-out.