Israeli military takes control of Rafah crossing into Egypt

Palestinian militant group Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire proposal from mediators.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: The Israeli military took control of the vital Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on Tuesday, pushing into the southern Gazan town after a night of air strikes and as prospects for a ceasefire deal hung in the balance.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas said late on Monday it had agreed to a ceasefire proposal from mediators seven months into the war that has pushed more than a million Gazans into the south of the enclave.

Israel said the terms did not meet its demands and launched a military operation in Rafah.

Israeli tanks and planes pounded several areas and houses in Rafah overnight, killing 20 Palestinians and wounding several others in strikes that hit at least four houses, Palestinian health officials said.

“The Israeli occupation has sentenced the residents of the Strip to death after closure of the Rafah border crossing,” said Hisham Edwan, spokesman for the Gaza Border Crossing Authority. It also condemned to death cancer patients due to the collapse of the healthcare system, he added.

Israel has been threatening to launch a major incursion in Rafah, which it says harbours thousands of Hamas fighters and potentially dozens of hostages. Victory is impossible without taking Rafah, it says.

A Gaza border authority spokesperson told Reuters the Rafah crossing, a major route for aid into the devastated enclave, was closed because of the presence of Israeli tanks. Israel’s Army Radio had earlier announced its forces were there.

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