(Bloomberg) -- US President Joe Biden said negotiators were making good progress toward a temporary pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas and that a cease-fire could begin as soon as the start of next week.

“My national security adviser tells me that we’re close, we’re close,” Biden told reporters on Monday in New York, when asked when he thought a cease-fire would start. “We’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a cease-fire.”

Discussions on Israel agreeing to pause the war in Gaza in exchange for the release of more hostages held by Hamas have intensified in recent days. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that representatives from Israel, the US, Egypt and Qatar had agreed on the “broad contours” of a deal.

Israel and Hamas are yet to comment on Biden’s remarks and Israeli officials continue to say that they will launch an offensive on the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

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Israel has been waging a military campaign to root out Hamas in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the group’s attack from Gaza on Oct. 7, which killed 1,200 people and saw 240 people taken hostage.

The death toll in Gaza is nearing 30,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, leading to intense pressure on Israel to stop fighting or at least ease its operations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the war must continue until Hamas — classified as a terrorist organization by the US and European Union — is destroyed as a military and governing entity. The next major phase of the campaign may be Israel sending ground forces into Rafah, where more than one million civilians are seeking refuge from the conflict.

Israel says there are thousands of Hamas fighters there and that it will allow civilians to leave before any offensive. Still, its officials acknowledge in private they have no precise strategy for how that will be done, how long it will take or where the people will go.

Read More: Why Rafah Is Raising Fears in Israel-Hamas War: QuickTake

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s five-man war cabinet, said last week that Hamas has until the start of Ramadan to release the remaining hostages or the Israeli military will move into Rafah. The Muslim holy month is expected to begin on March 10.

An offensive on Rafah “must be done,” Nir Barkat, Israel’s economy and industry minister, said in an interview with Bloomberg in Abu Dhabi on Monday, before Biden spoke. “It’s not a question of should it be done. We have to make Hamas surrender. They’re evil.”

Barkat, who was in the United Arab Emirates for a World Trade Organization meeting, said he didn’t know if there would be a truce before Ramadan. But he said Hamas had to commit to releasing all the hostages.

“I’m part of the government that says that it’s all or nothing,” he said. “It may be in phases, but we have to discuss how we bring everyone back home. This ‘take a bunch now and discuss later’ approach is something that is unacceptable.”

More than 100 hostages have been released so far, most of them during a week-long truce that ended on Dec. 1. Of the remaining 130 or so, Israel’s said around 30 have probably died.

While Biden has backed Israel’s right to defend itself he has also urged its government to do more to avoid civilian deaths. He said this month that Israel’s operations in Gaza were “over the top” and that “a lot of innocent people” are dying and starving.

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Biden’s latest remarks came a day before a Democratic Party primary in Michigan, a key battleground state for his 2024 reelection hopes. While he does not face a serious challenger for the nomination, critics of his Israel policy are encouraging voters to select an “uncommitted” option on the ballot to punish him.

The president has faced backlash from Muslim and Arab Americans as well as some younger voters and progressives over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. His events in recent weeks have seen regular protests by pro-Palestinian activists. Michigan is home to a sizable Arab and Muslim American population.

--With assistance from Eric Martin.

(Updates with additional background, comments from Israeli minister.)

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