World News 7 Mayıs 2024

Israel claims control of key Rafah crossing after rejecting ceasefire deal

Israel claims control of key Rafah crossing after rejecting ceasefire deal

The Israeli military claims it has taken control of the vital Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt – hours after rejecting a ceasefire deal accepted by Hamas.

Israel said it was conducting “targeted strikes” against Hamas in the east of Rafah, which is the group’s final stronghold in Gaza.

A Gaza border authority spokesperson told Reuters news agency the crossing, a major route for aid into the devastated enclave, has been closed because of the presence of Israeli tanks.

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Israel claims control of key Rafah crossing after rejecting ceasefire deal

The Israel Defence Forces said special forces are now in the area and claims 20 gunmen were killed in the operation, which also located “significant” tunnel shafts.

The activity inside the city itself was described as a “very precise and limited-in-space counterterrorist operation”, while the Kerem Shalom crossing is also closed for “security reasons”, the IDF said.

But Palestinian health officials report Israeli tanks and planes pounded several areas and houses in overnight, killing 20 Palestinians and wounding several others.

Ceasefire deal rejected

Despite international pressure not to advance into the southern Gazan city, where about 1.4 million Palestinians have fled, Israel insists victory over Hamas is not possible without taking Rafah.

Israel claims control of key Rafah crossing after rejecting ceasefire deal
Image:
Houses damaged in an Israeli strike in Rafah. Pic: Reuters

The attack, which Israel has long threatened, came as hopes of reaching a ceasefire deal appeared to fade

Hamas said its chief, Ismail Haniyeh, had informed Qatari and Egyptian mediators the group had accepted their proposal for a ceasefire, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the truce proposal fell short of its demands.

Israel claims control of key Rafah crossing after rejecting ceasefire deal
Image:
Palestinians cheer after Hamas announced it had accepted a ceasefire proposal. Pic: Reuters

However, it added Israel would send a delegation to meet negotiators on Tuesday in order to try to reach an agreement.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said its delegation will head to Egypt’s capital Cairo to continue indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Egypt and Qatar have been mediating talks between Hamas and Israel for months.

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‘There is not a deal, there is no acceptance’

Thousands of Israelis protested around the country calling for an immediate agreement. In Jerusalem, around a hundred marched towards Mr Netanyahu’s home with a banner reading: “The blood is on your hands.”

An Israeli official described the Hamas announcement as “a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal”.

Analysis: Peace in Gaza looks as distant as ever

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People in Rafah react to IDF evacuation warning

On Sunday, Hamas fighters near the Rafah crossing fired mortars into southern Israel and killed four Israeli soldiers.

Israeli leaflets, texts and radio broadcasts ordered Palestinians to evacuate the eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah, warning an attack was imminent and cautioning that anyone who stays “puts themselves and their family members in danger”.

Israel claims control of key Rafah crossing after rejecting ceasefire deal
Image:
Palestinians fleeing Rafah. Pic: AP

Israel claims control of key Rafah crossing after rejecting ceasefire deal
Image:
Pic: Reuters

Israel and Hamas urged to ‘go the extra mile’

US President Joe Biden has spoken with Mr Netanyahu and reiterated US concerns about an invasion of Rafah, while UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres urged Israel and Hamas “to go the extra mile needed to make an agreement”, his spokesperson said.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed during the war, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza – though the tally does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

The UN has warned the enclave is on the brink of famine.

The war began when Hamas militants stormed across the border into Israel on 7 October, killing around 1,200 people and taking 252 hostages, of whom 133 are believed to still be in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

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