CAIRO (NEWSnet/AP) — Israel and Hamas are making progress toward a six-week cease-fire and hostage-release deal, officials said Tuesday, despite threats from Israel to expand its offensive toward Rafah.

The talks continued in Egypt a day after Israeli forces rescued two captives in Rafah, the packed southern town along the Egyptian border, in a raid that killed at least 74 Palestinians, according to local health officials, and caused heavy destruction.

The war is now in its fifth month and about 100 people are still held captive in Gaza.

Qatar, the United States and Egypt have sought to negotiate an agreement between Israel and Hamas that would ease up the military action.

A senior Egyptian official said mediators have achieved “relatively significant” progress ahead of a meeting Tuesday in Cairo of representatives from Qatar, the U.S. and Israel. The official said the meeting would focus on “crafting a final draft” of a six-week cease-fire deal, with guarantees that the parties would continue negotiations toward a permanent cease-fire.

A Western diplomat in the Egyptian capital also said a six-week deal was on the table but cautioned that more work is still needed to reach an agreement. The diplomat said the meeting Tuesday would be crucial in bridging the remaining gaps.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive talks with the media.

In other developments, South Africa, which has lodged genocide allegations against Israel at the International Court of Justice, said Tuesday that it filed an “urgent request” with the court to consider whether Israel's military operations in Rafah constitute a breach of provisional orders handed down by the justices last month.

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