Israel and Hamas at war, day 215 | Israeli strikes on Rafah, “last chance” negotiations in Cairo

(Rafah) The Israeli army carried out strikes on Wednesday against the overcrowded Palestinian town of Rafah, threatened by a major ground offensive, at a time when “last chance” negotiations are being held in Cairo for a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

What there is to know

  • According to Egyptian media, negotiations have resumed in Cairo for a truce “in the presence of all parties”;
  • Israel announces the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing to bring in “humanitarian aid”;
  • Qatar calls on international community to prevent “genocide” in Rafah;
  • Washington suspends bomb delivery to Israel over “concerns” over Rafah.

The resumption of discussions in Cairo is taking place in the presence of Israeli representatives and the Palestinian Islamist movement as well as Qatari, American and Egyptian mediators, according to a media close to the Egyptian authorities.

Despite multiple warnings and international pressure for a truce, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is determined to launch a ground assault against Rafah, on the southern edge of the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel’s last bastion of Hamas that it swore to annihilate.


Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border.

Hamas is responsible for an unprecedented attack against Israel carried out on October 7, 2023 from Gaza which left more than 1,170 dead, mainly civilians, according to an AFP report established from official data. More than 250 people were kidnapped during the attack and 128 remain captive in Gaza, 36 of whom are considered dead, according to the army.

The response of the Israeli army was devastating: the deluge of fire on the Palestinian territory where some 2.4 million inhabitants were crowded together cost the lives of nearly 35,000 people in seven months according to Hamas, causing a humanitarian disaster with a famine situation in the north according to the UN and colossal destruction.

On Wednesday, and under pressure from the United States, its main ally, Israel announced the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing located near Rafah and closed on Monday the day after Hamas fired rockets into the area which killed four soldiers.


Map and satellite images from Planet Labs PBC showing locations where Israeli army vehicles were parked around Kerem Shalom, the crossing point between Gaza and Israel, as of May 3.

“Trucks from Egypt carrying food, water, shelter, medicine and medical equipment are arriving at the crossing” of Kerem Shalom, according to an army statement. After inspection, the cargo will be transferred to the besieged Palestinian territory.

But Juliette Touma, spokesperson for Unrwa, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, told AFP that this crossing “was still not open” as of mid-morning.

Bombings in Rafah and Gaza

A second crossing from Israel, that of Erez, which provides access to the north of the Gaza Strip, “continues to operate to facilitate the entry of aid,” the army said.

The American executive considered “unacceptable” the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossings with Israel, and that of Rafah, on the border with Egypt.

He also “suspended the delivery of a shipment” of bombs last week after Israel’s lack of response to its “concerns” regarding an announced offensive on Rafah, according to an American official.

According to the UN, 1.4 million Palestinians, the vast majority displaced, are crowded into Rafah, which had some 250,000 inhabitants before the war.

The international community fears for the population in the event of an Israeli assault, with the UN warning of “a bloodbath”. Qatar on Wednesday called on the international community to act to prevent a “genocide” in Rafah.


Map of the south of the Gaza Strip showing in particular the eastern area of ​​Rafah where Israel launched an operation to evacuate residents to a “humanitarian zone” on Monday, May 6.

After the evacuation of tens of thousands of Palestinians ordered by Israel on Monday to leave eastern Rafah, Israeli forces continued to bombard this city, and took control of the strategic Rafah crossing for the transfer of humanitarian aid before to close it, saying it was carrying out “targeted raids” in the area.

Late Tuesday evening, injured people and bodies were removed from the rubble of destroyed homes in front of worried or crying residents.

The Israeli strikes also affected the city of Gaza (north) where the al-Ahli hospital announced the death of seven members of the same family, the al-Louhs.

“Decisive round”

In order to reach a truce and avoid a “bloodbath” in Rafah in the event of an assault, the mediators are rushing to find common ground between Hamas and Israel, whose stated positions remain very far apart. .

On Wednesday, a Hamas official told AFP on condition of anonymity that his movement “insists on the legitimate demands of its people”, and spoke of a “decisive round” in Cairo.

Benjamin Netanyahu said he had instructed his delegation in Cairo to “continue to be firm on the conditions necessary for the release” of the hostages and “essential” to Israel’s security.

“This could be the last chance (for Israel) to recover the captives (…) alive,” a Hamas official said the day before.

The latter, according to an official of the Khalil al-Hayya movement, accepted a proposal comprising three phases, each lasting 42 days, and including an Israeli withdrawal from the territory, the return of the displaced and an exchange of hostages and Palestinian prisoners, with the aim of a “permanent ceasefire”.

But Israel said the accepted proposal “falls far from Israeli demands.”

Israel opposes a permanent ceasefire until it defeats Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007 and which it considers a terrorist organization along with the United States and the European Union.

And the threat of a major offensive in Rafah aims, according to Israel, to “exert military pressure” on Hamas in order to obtain an agreement that meets its demands.


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