Israel rejects ceasefire proposal and presses ahead with ‘targeted strikes’ on Rafah


Israel has rejected a ceasefire proposal accepted by Hamas and announced it is pushing ahead with an assault on the town of Rafah in southern Gaza.

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

Soon after Israeli tanks entered Rafah and advanced as close as 200m from Rafah’s crossing with Egypt, the Associated Press reported, citing an Egyptian official who said the operation appeared to be limited in scope.

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

Hamas had 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 falls short of its demands.

However, it added Israel would send a delegation to meet negotiators today 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.

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”.

Aid groups have warned an attack on Rafah would be disastrous for the 1.4 million Palestinians who have fled there.

Analysis: Peace in Gaza looks as distant as ever

Palestinians cheer after Hamas announced it had accepted a ceasefire proposal. Pic: Reuters

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People in Rafah react to IDF evacuation warning

Five killed in airstrikes

Israeli airstrikes killed at least five people in the city last night, including a child and a woman, hospital officials said.

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”.

Pic: Reuters

Palestinians fleeing Rafah. Pic: AP

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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