Israeli tanks enter Rafah as forces capture Gazan side of border crossing

Israel has commenced its planned military offensive in Rafah hours after Hamas accepted an agreement for a ceasefire in Gaza aimed at ending the seven-month war.
Israeli tanks enter Rafah as forces capture Gazan side of border crossing
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The Israeli military on Tuesday said it seized control of the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing as the Jewish state commenced its planned military offensive in the southern city hours after Hamas accepted an agreement brokered by Egypt and Qatar for a ceasefire aimed at ending the seven-month war.

On Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces announced that it was "conducting targeted strikes against Hamas terror targets in eastern Rafah".

The Associated Press said in a report, citing Palestinian and Egyptian officials, that Israeli tanks entered Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza, reaching as close as 200 metres from the border with Egypt,

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Israeli tanks enter Rafah as forces capture Gazan side of border crossing

In a statement on Monday, Hamas announced that it had accepted the deal and the group's chief, Ismail Haniyeh, informed the two mediating nations of its agreement. However, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal fell short of the country's demands, and would send a delegation to meet the negotiators in an effort to reach an agreement, Reuters news agency reported.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued evacuation orders to some 1 lakh residents of eastern Rafah after it struck the city in retaliation for a Hamas rocket attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

Israeli authorities said that three of its soldiers were killed in the Hamas attack, while Palestinian officials announced that the counter-attack in Rafah led to the death of 19 people, including a baby.

Here are some latest developments:

  • Israeli forces reiterated its appeal to Palestinians to evacuate Rafah as strikes continue to pound the city. IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said "we also call upon those staying in specific areas which we have communicated and defined through every means - radio, media, internet, and flyers to leave", the BBC reported.

  • In response to the Israeli offensive, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad said its militants launched rockets towards southern Israel from Gaza and targeted "Sderot, Nir Am, and settlements in the Gaza envelope", reports AFP. The "Gaza envelope" refers to a zone of southern Israel close to the enclave.

  • A senior Hamas official, speaking to AFP, said Israel must now decide whether it accepts or "obstructs" a truce after seven months of war.

  • Hamas member Taher Al-Nono told Reuters the truce proposal met the group's demands for reconstruction efforts in Gaza, return of displaced Palestinians and a swap of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said the proposal "is far from Israel's essential demands", but the government will send negotiators for talks "to exhaust the potential for arriving at an agreement".

On Tuesday, Qatar's Foreign Ministry said its delegation will head to Cairo later in the day to resume indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

  • The White House said that US President Joe Biden had "reiterated his clear position on Rafah" during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday. The US would "discuss the Hamas deal with its allies in the coming hours", State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters.

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the ground invasion of Rafah would be "intolerable because of its devastating humanitarian consequences and because of its destabilizing impact in the region".

  • On Monday night, protests erupted in Israel, including in front of Netyanyahu's home in Jerusalem, calling for an immediate deal to release the hostages still held in the Gaza Strip, The Associated Press reported.

  • Israel believes that a significant number of Hamas fighters, along with potentially dozens of hostages, are holed up in Rafah and said that victory requires taking the city.

Source: India Today

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