Israel closes Gaza crossing after Hamas attack and promises military operation “in the very near future”

Israel also ordered the closure of the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network, accusing it of broadcasting anti-Israel incitement.

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JERUSALEM – Israel on Sunday closed its main crossing point for delivering much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza after Hamas militants attacked it, while the defense minister claimed Hamas was not serious about a ceasefire deal and warned about “a powerful operation in the very near future.” in Rafah and other places throughout Gaza.”

Both attacked ongoing ceasefire efforts in Cairo, brokered by Egypt and Qatar, after signs of progress were reported. Israel has not sent a delegation, unlike Hamas, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that “we see signs that Hamas has no intention of reaching any agreement.”

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Another threat to the talks came when Israel ordered the closure of the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network, accusing it of broadcasting incitement against Israel. The ban did not appear to affect the channel’s operations in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under pressure from his government’s hardliners, continued to lower expectations for a ceasefire agreement and called Hamas’ demands, including the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the end of the war. That would amount to surrender after the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that sparked the fighting, Netanyahu said.

Hamas did not immediately respond to Gallant’s comments. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in an earlier statement said the militant group was serious and positive about the negotiations and that stopping Israeli aggression in Gaza is the top priority.

But Israel’s government again vowed to press ahead with a military operation in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city on the border with Egypt, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents now seek refuge from attacks. Israelis. Rafah is a key entry point for aid.

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Kerem Shalom, now closed, is another. The Israeli military reported that 10 projectiles were fired at the crossing in southern Israel and said its fighter jets later attacked the source. Hamas said he had been attacking Israeli soldiers in the area. Israeli television channel Channel 12 said 10 people were injured, three of them seriously. It was unclear how long the crossing would be closed.

The attack came shortly after the head of the UN World Food Program said there was a “full-blown famine” in devastated northern Gaza, one of the most prominent warnings yet about the cost of the restrictions. to the entry of food and other types of aid to the territory. The comments were not a formal declaration of famine.

Gaza’s enormous humanitarian needs put further pressure on the ceasefire talks. The proposal that Egyptian mediators had presented to Hamas lays out a three-stage process that would bring an immediate six-week ceasefire and the partial release of Israeli hostages taken in the October 7 attack, and would include some form of Israeli withdrawal. . The initial stage would last 40 days. Hamas would begin by releasing female civilian hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

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Netanyahu affirmed that Israel has shown a willingness to make concessions, but said it “will continue to fight until all its objectives are achieved.” That includes the stated goal of crushing Hamas. Israel says it must target Rafah to attack remaining fighters there despite warnings from the United States and others about the danger to civilians.

In later remarks for Israel’s annual Holocaust memorial day, Netanyahu added: “We will defend ourselves in every way. “We will overcome our enemies and guarantee our security, in the Gaza Strip, on the Lebanese border and everywhere.”

The Hamas cross-border attack on October 7 killed about 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage. Israel says the militants are still holding about 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others. Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from the families of some hostages to reach a deal that would end the war and free the hostages.

Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 34,500 people, according to Palestinian health officials, who do not differentiate between civilians and combatants but say women and children make up the majority of the dead.

Israel blames Hamas for the civilian deaths, accusing it of embedding itself in residential and public areas. The Israeli army says it has killed 13,000 militants, without providing evidence to support that claim.

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