US says obstacles to ceasefire not insurmountable, despite apparent impasse

Smoke rises from Gaza, as seen from Israel

By Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States continues to believe obstacles in the talks to achieve a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas are not insurmountable and a deal can be reached, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Wednesday.

At a daily press briefing, Miller said Israel has put a serious proposal on the table that is for Hamas to accept and engage in good faith to show that they want to achieve a deal.

"We continue to believe that obstacles are not insurmountable and a deal can be reached ... so we're going to continue to push for one," Miller said.

Asked if he would agree with the characterization that talks are at an impasse, Miller said: "They are ongoing."

Negotiators from the Palestinian militants, Qatar and Egypt - but not Israel - are trying to secure a 40-day ceasefire in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins early next week.

A temporary ceasefire would allow some hostages captured by Palestinian militants in the Oct. 7 attack that precipitated the war to go free, while aid to Gaza would be increased and families would be able to return to abandoned homes.

Hamas pledged to continue to take part in the Cairo talks, but officials in the militant group said a ceasefire must be in place before hostages are freed, Israeli forces must leave Gaza and all Gazans must be able to return to homes they have fled.

Asked what, if any, alternative plan the United States has should the ceasefire talks collapse, Miller said Washington was working to make a truce deal happen.

"We're pushing for a successful conclusion of these talks," Miller said.

Israeli forces have continued bombarding the Palestinian enclave since the talks began in Cairo on Sunday, and the dire humanitarian situation in the densely populated coastal strip has deteriorated further.

Around 250 aid trucks entered Gaza on Tuesday through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings, Miller said. There has been some improvement in the distribution of aid but enough was still not entering Gaza, he said.

"We need to see dramatically more go in," Miller said. "Not just through Rafah and Kerem Shalom, but we need to see it going through a crossing in the north and we have made it very clear to the government of Israel that that's what we expect."

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Daphne Psaledakis, Simon Lewis and Ismail Shakil, editing by Deepa Babington)