Efforts to hammer out a temporary truce in Gaza have intensified after months of war that have left parts of the devastated territory facing imminent famine.

A United Nations-backed assessment described the increasingly dire situation by noting that without a surge of aid, famine would hit the 300,000 people in Gaza’s war-battered north by May.

Gaza’s 2.3 million people are trapped in the fighting, which again flared at the territory’s biggest hospital, al-Shifa in Gaza City, as an Israeli raid stretched into Tuesday.

But positive signals have been reported from negotiations for a new truce that would include an exchange of captives held in Gaza for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel and increased aid deliveries.

US media outlet Axios said the opening session of talks in Doha was “positive”, citing what it called a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

“Both parties came with some compromises and willingness to negotiate,” the source said, according to the report.

Qatar confirmed that Israel’s spy chief David Barnea met Egyptian and Qatari mediators on Monday.

“The negotiations resumed in Doha,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari told a press conference in the Qatari capital.

He said a meeting was held on Monday where Israel presented its response to a Hamas proposal for a Gaza truce deal.

The head of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad, David Barnea, who heads his country’s delegation to the talks, had left Qatar early Tuesday.

“The Mossad chief left Doha, but the Israeli delegation is still holding meetings in Qatar,” Al-Ansari said.

The new truce push follows the latest proposal from Hamas for a six-week ceasefire, vastly more aid for Gaza and the initial release of some captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

During the proposed truce, Israeli forces would withdraw from “all cities and populated areas” in Gaza, according to a Hamas official.

The talks in the Qatari capital are the first since weeks of intense negotiations involving Egyptian, Qatari and US mediators failed to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last week.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week to discuss the proposed truce and ways to step up deliveries of desperately needed relief supplies.

“According to the most respected measure of these things, 100 percent of the population in Gaza is at severe levels of acute food insecurity,” Blinken said on a visit to the Philippines on Tuesday.

“That’s the first time an entire population has been so classified.”

The war has left roughly half the Palestinians in Gaza – about 1.1 million people – experiencing “catastrophic” hunger, the UN-backed food security assessment warned.


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