Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Israel launches Gaza strikes as negotiators work toward truce


Israel Strikes Gaza Targets After Seizing Rafah Crossing

Israel launched strikes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday following the seizure of the main border crossing with Egypt. Negotiators were in Cairo working on a ceasefire deal that many see as the last chance to end the conflict. The move to capture the Rafah crossing, a vital aid conduit into Gaza, came after weeks of threats by Israel to launch a ground incursion into the border city despite international objections.

White House Condemnation and US Involvement

The White House condemned the interruption to humanitarian deliveries caused by Israel’s actions. A senior US official revealed that Washington had paused a shipment of bombs last week due to concerns over Israel’s plans for Rafah. Despite the ongoing talks in Cairo, witnesses reported Israeli strikes across Gaza overnight, including in Rafah. The strikes resulted in civilian casualties, with one attack killing seven members of the same family in Gaza City.

Negotiations and Truce Efforts

Negotiators and mediators were meeting in Cairo to work on a hostage release deal and a truce in the seven-month war between Israel and Hamas. A senior Hamas official emphasized that this was Israel’s “last chance” to free hostages held by militants. Mediators from Qatar, the United States, and Egypt were involved in discussions with a Hamas delegation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel’s delegation was also present in Cairo.

Control of Rafah Crossing and International Response

Israeli army footage showed tanks taking control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, a move described by Netanyahu as crucial in denying Hamas a strategic passage. However, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations were denied access to both Rafah and Kerem Shalom, another major aid crossing. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel to reopen both crossings immediately, emphasizing the dire humanitarian situation.

US Involvement and Weapon Shipment Pause

The United States had paused a shipment of weapons last week after Israel failed to address concerns over the Rafah incursion. The shipment included heavy-duty bombs, and it was the first time President Biden acted on his warning to Netanyahu regarding US policy on Gaza. The Pentagon confirmed the completion of an aid pier off Gaza’s coast, but weather conditions prevented its installation.

Rising Death Toll and Truce Talks

The conflict in Gaza began with Hamas’s attack on Israel, resulting in significant casualties on both sides. Israel’s retaliatory offensive has led to a high death toll in Gaza, with many civilian casualties. The situation is further complicated by the hostage crisis, with negotiations ongoing for their release. Egypt and Qatar have been leading truce talks, with Hamas expressing approval of a ceasefire proposal involving an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a prisoner exchange.

International Concerns and Humanitarian Crisis

The international community has expressed alarm over the potential consequences of an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah, where a significant population is seeking shelter. Despite calls for a ceasefire, Netanyahu has remained steadfast in his commitment to rooting out Hamas forces. Aid groups have warned about the unpreparedness of the humanitarian area in Al-Muwasi to handle an influx of displaced individuals.

In conclusion, the situation in Gaza remains tense as efforts continue to secure a ceasefire and address the humanitarian crisis. The involvement of international mediators and pressure from various stakeholders highlight the urgency of finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

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