Israeli tanks deployed in Rafah, before talks

Israeli tanks deployed in Rafah, before talks
Israeli tanks deployed in Rafah, before talks

The Israeli army deployed tanks on Tuesday in Rafah and took control of the Palestinian part of the crossing with Egypt, while bombarding the city ahead of talks in Cairo on a proposed truce in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas gave the green light on Monday to a draft agreement presented by mediating countries to try to end the war in the Palestinian territory, triggered seven months ago by an unprecedented attack launched by the Islamist movement on Israeli soil .

This proposal is far from Israeli demands, retorted the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The war, which left tens of thousands dead, devastated the Gaza Strip, besieged by Israel, and pushed half of its population to seek refuge in Rafah, in the south.

On Monday, the army called for the evacuation of tens of thousands of families from several neighborhoods in the east of the city, which is home to a total of 1.2 million Palestinians, according to the UN, in anticipation of a ground offensive that Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to launch efforts to eliminate the last battalions of Hamas, despite international condemnations.

Head west

Civil Defense on Tuesday reported numerous deaths in the bombings, while the Kuwaiti Rafah hospital said it had received 23 deaths and the al-Najjar hospital four deaths.

Palestinian witnesses and security sources reported airstrikes late Monday and early Tuesday, as well as artillery fire across the Gaza Strip, particularly Rafah and its surrounding areas.

On Tuesday, the army announced that it had taken operational control of the Palestinian part of the crossing point with Egypt.

An armored unit maneuvered in the area. “At this moment, special forces are inspecting the crossing point,” the army added.

The day before, ordered to evacuate by the Israeli army, thousands of desperate men, women and children, many already displaced by the war, had hastily packed some belongings, without really knowing where to go.

“We are terrified, it’s not easy to be moved from one place to another,” Hanah Saleh, a 40-year-old displaced man from the north of the Gaza Strip, told AFP. We’re going to head west from Rafah, but we don’t know exactly where. And everyone is asking the question, he added.

The army dropped leaflets calling on residents to evacuate to the wider humanitarian zone of al-Mawasi, around ten kilometers from Rafah.

But residents and humanitarian organizations describe areas already overpopulated or destroyed by war.

Pressure on Hamas

On Monday evening, Hamas said it had informed Egypt and Qatar, the mediating countries with the United States, that it had approved their proposal for a ceasefire agreement with Israel, following a previous round of talks. in Cairo which ended on Sunday without progress.

Israel decided to send a delegation to Cairo, while continuing its military operations in Rafah.

The war cabinet unanimously decided to continue Operation Rafah in order to exert military pressure on Hamas with the aim of progressing towards the release of the hostages and other objectives of the war, the Prime Minister’s office said. minister.

Although Hamas’ proposal falls far short of meeting key Israeli demands, Israel will send a high-ranking delegation to Egypt with the aim of maximizing the chances of reaching an agreement on acceptable terms, they added.

Qatar also announced the sending of a delegation to Cairo on Tuesday to relaunch indirect negotiations between the two parties (…) with the hope of reaching an agreement for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in exchange prisoners and hostages.

According to the number two in Hamas Gaza’s political wing, Khalil al-Hayya, the proposal includes three phases, each lasting 42 days, and includes a complete Israeli withdrawal from the territory, the return of the displaced and an exchange of hostages held in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, with the aim of a permanent ceasefire.

Israel has so far opposed a ceasefire until Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, has been defeated.

The Islamist movement, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, for its part demands a definitive ceasefire and an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, prior to any agreement.

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from the Gaza Strip launched an attack in southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to a report by the AFP established from official Israeli data.

More than 250 people have been kidnapped and 128 remain captive in Gaza, including 35 dead, according to the army.

In retaliation, Israel launched a military operation in the Gaza Strip which has so far left 34,789 dead, mainly civilians, including at least 54 in 24 hours, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.

The time has come

In Israel, the Families Forum, an association of hostage relatives, judged on Monday that the time had come for all parties concerned (…) to transform this opportunity into an agreement for the return of all the hostages.

During the night, Israeli media reported clashes in Tel Aviv between police and demonstrators demanding a truce agreement.

“I made a strong appeal today to the Israeli government and Hamas leaders to make an extra effort to materialize a vital agreement,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

An imminent ground operation on Rafah which would be intolerable due to its devastating humanitarian consequences, added Mr. Guterres.

In a telephone interview, US President Joe Biden reiterated Benjamin Netanyahu’s clear position against any Rafah offensive.

The US State Department said it had not seen a credible humanitarian plan for an operation that would only increase the suffering of the Palestinian people.

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