Shortly before the planned ground offensive in Rafah, Israel’s government and Hamas are again struggling to reach an agreement for a ceasefire and the release of further hostages kidnapped from Israel. A high-ranking Hamas official announced on Telegram that the Islamist organization would examine a corresponding Israeli proposal and provide an answer.

This was recently presented to Hamas. The negotiations had not made any progress for a long time. It remains to be seen whether there will be a breakthrough that could delay a large-scale Israeli military operation in Rafah. Meanwhile, the Islamist Hamas released another hostage video. In it, two men kidnapped from Israel advocate a deal between Hamas and the Israeli government that would see the hostages released.

It was initially unclear under what circumstances the video was made and whether the two men spoke of their own free will or under pressure and threats. One of the two, who according to Israeli media also has US citizenship, called in the video to continue the protests for the release of those abducted from Israel in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

In the evening, thousands came to the rallies in several cities. In the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv, demonstrators demanded the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The demonstrators accuse Israel’s government of not being seriously interested in securing the release of the hostages.

Meanwhile, according to Israeli media, Israel’s Foreign Minister held out the prospect of postponing the planned offensive in the city of Rafah in the event of a hostage agreement with the Islamist Hamas. “The release of the hostages is our highest priority,” Israel Katz told Channel 12. The Israeli Kan station also reported, citing the minister, that Israel was ready to postpone military operations if a hostage deal was reached .

Hamas says it is currently examining an Israeli proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of more hostages. Israel expects a response within 48 hours, according to a report by Channel 12.

According to Israeli media, the current draft deal is initially a limited agreement that stipulates that only some female, elderly and sick hostages would be released. The number of days of a possible ceasefire depends on the number of hostages that Hamas releases, reported the news portal Axios. Hamas has recently called for a permanent ceasefire, which Israel rejects.

Axios reported, citing two senior Israeli officials, that Israel would be willing to compromise under the new proposal – such as allowing civilians to return to the northern Gaza Strip. This includes a withdrawal of the Israeli military from the corridor that divides the coastal area and prevents displaced Palestinians from returning to the north.

It is hoped that the latest proposal will be enough to conduct serious negotiations with Hamas, the news portal Axios quoted one of the two officials as saying. “We hope that Hamas sees that we are serious about the agreement – and we are serious,” he continued. In his opinion, Hamas would see an offensive in Rafah as a sufficient threat to accept the Israeli proposal.

Several high-ranking politicians from various countries will meet in Saudi Arabia on Monday to discuss the Gaza war. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be attending. The dpa learned from diplomatic circles in Riyadh that the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates will attend, as well as their counterparts from Great Britain, France and Italy. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Samih Shukri is said to already be there.

There was initially no official confirmation from Riyadh, where an international economic forum is planned. However, diplomatic circles said that the Arab participants wanted to find a “united Arab position” on the issue at a joint meeting and also consult with a representative of the Palestinian Authority. However, he will not take part in the meeting with the foreign ministers of Western countries.

“Axios” reported, citing US government officials, that Blinken will arrive in Saudi Arabia today. A meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected. The US had held talks with Saudi Arabia about a possible normalization of the Arab country’s relations with Israel, which were suspended after the start of the Gaza war. However, the Crown Prince continued to express a “great interest” in it. According to reports, the kingdom hopes in return for security guarantees from the USA and help in setting up a civilian nuclear program.

According to its own statements, the Israeli army carried out further air strikes against the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip. A vehicle carrying eight Hamas terrorists was hit in the central part of the coastal strip. A total of 25 targets have been attacked throughout the coastal area since Friday.

The Hamas-controlled health authority on Saturday put the number of people killed since the war began on October 7 at 34,388. More than 77,400 others were injured. The authority does not distinguish between civilians and armed people. The numbers could not initially be independently verified.

According to the Israeli army, more humanitarian aid is now reaching the Gaza Strip. The number of trucks entering the coastal area has increased significantly in recent weeks, an army spokesman said. Israel is under massive international pressure to allow more aid deliveries into the sealed-off area on the Mediterranean, where the Israeli military has been fighting against the Islamist Hamas for months.

The war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre with more than 1,200 deaths that terrorists from Hamas and other groups carried out in Israel on October 7 last year.

Meanwhile, the Gaza war also reached the annual Correspondents’ Dinner for journalists accredited to the White House in Washington. A few hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered at the venue and loudly criticized the journalists arriving at the press gala dinner for their reporting on the Middle East. Some protesters wore blue helmets and T-shirts with the words “Press” on them, reminiscent of the protective vests worn by war reporters. One demonstrator explained that this was intended to draw attention to the situation of Palestinian journalists.

According to the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders at the beginning of March, more than 100 journalists have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war began. A criticism from the Foreign Press Association (FPA) is that Israel only allows independent reporters very limited access to the war zone. The responsible authorities justify this with security and logistical problems.

While pro-Palestinian demonstrations have recently expanded and in some cases intensified, particularly at US universities, in Washington, according to local police officers, it was a relatively small protest.