Sunday, May 19, 2024

Hamas says Israel sabotaging ceasefire negotiations

Palestinian group Hamas has stressed in a statement Israel’s military incursion into the Rafah crossing in Gaza is aimed at thwarting the continuing ceasefire talks.

“By deciding to close the Rafah and Kerem Shalom [Karem Abu Salem] border crossing, Israel is leading the region toward a disaster and continues its policy of starvation and persecution of [Palestinians],” said Hamas, which on Monday accepted a three-phase ceasefire deal proposed by Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

In its statement, the Palestinian group also urged for “international intervention” to push Israel towards a ceasefire, adding it holds the administration of US President Joe Biden and the international community fully responsible for the war’s continuation.

The Israeli military said on Tuesday that it had seized “operational control” of the Gaza side of the border post, which links the besieged enclave with Egypt. The operation came amid an overnight assault on eastern parts of the city.

The assault comes despite Hamas having said on Monday that it had agreed with the terms of a truce deal hammered out by mediators.

However, pressed by hardline nationalist coalition partners who have demanded a full offensive on Rafah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears set to press on regardless.

Israeli forces whipped up panic on Monday as they ordered 1.4 million or so Palestinians in Rafah – most of whom are displaced following previous instructions from the Israeli military – to evacuate.

The Israeli army reiterated on Tuesday that it has “encouraged” displaced people and international humanitarian organisations operating in eastern Rafah to “temporarily evacuate”.

However, people sheltering in Rafah, amid poor conditions with little shelter, food, or medicine, have few places to go.

The closure of the border crossing only threatens to worsen those shortages and trap more people close to the fighting.

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