The death toll from the war between Israel and the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip has topped 30,000, Palestinian authorities said Thursday, amid few signs that the two sides will be able to agree to a cease-fire soon.

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed hope earlier this week for a cease-fire deal to be reached by next Monday, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas officials reportedly discounted the possibility.

A U.N. official said at a recent Security Council session that one-fourth of Gaza's population is on the brink of famine in the area that has been pounded by Israeli military offensives since Hamas attacked Israel in October.

Palestinian children injured in an Israeli attack receive treatment at a hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza, on Feb. 28, 2024. (Anadolu Agency/Getty/Kyodo)

Ramesh Rajasingham, a senior official of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told the session Tuesday that at least 576,000 people in Gaza are "one step away from famine."

The office estimates that one in six children under 2 years old in northern Gaza suffer from acute malnutrition and wasting.

On the shortage of safe water, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said that the water supply in Gaza as of December was at only 7 percent of pre-October levels, while 97 percent of the groundwater in the area "is reportedly unfit for human consumption."

Biden told reporters on Monday in New York that his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, briefing him on the matter of when a cease-fire could start, had said, "We're close."

"And my hope is by next Monday, we'll have a cease-fire," Biden said.

But U.S. broadcaster ABC said Netanyahu was "surprised" by Biden's remarks, quoting a senior Israeli political source, while Reuters reported two senior Hamas officials called them premature.

Israel has reportedly agreed with the United States and other countries in principle on a 40-day cease-fire plan in which it would free some 400 Palestinians currently under detention in return for the release of 40 hostages by Hamas.

Hamas is demanding that Israel withdraw its military from Gaza, but Israel has spurned the call.

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