Israel and Egypt in talks to reopen crossing amid Rafah offensive

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Egypt and Israel were in talks on Sunday to resume aid deliveries to Gaza through its Rafah crossing in the south, as Israel continued an offensive in the area despite a halt order from the International Court of Justice.

On Friday, the court described as “disastrous” conditions for Palestinians still taking refuge in Rafah, the southernmost city in the strip, where Israel has launched a ground offensive and airstrikes despite a lack of safe havens for Palestinians. that people can flee.

Humanitarian conditions for Gazans have become a point of contention between Israel and its allies, including the United States, as well as playing a key role in the UN court’s decision to order Israel to take new interim measures.

Egypt’s aid delivery to Gaza resumed on Sunday, but only through the separate Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel. Egypt’s aid had been suspended for several weeks following Israel’s seizure of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the besieged Strip earlier this month, and Cairo’s angry reaction to its offensive there.

Some 200 Egyptian aid trucks had crossed through Kerem Shalom into Gaza on Sunday, Israeli military officials and Egyptian state media said, after US President Joe Biden spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday in an attempt to relieve tensions.

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The White House said talks were underway to “reopen the Rafah crossing with arrangements acceptable to both Egypt and Israel,” a move that would require the tactical redeployment of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) personnel to the area, an Israeli official said.

Israel has rejected the UN’s top court’s call to cease military operations in Rafah. The court also ordered Israel to reopen the Rafah crossing into Egypt to receive urgently needed humanitarian aid, as Gazans struggle with severe shortages of food and other necessities.

About 1.2 million people had taken refuge in Rafah from Israeli attacks elsewhere in the strip after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel sparked the war. But at least 800,000 of them have been forced to flee again, according to the UN. They have traveled to areas designated as “safe zones” but that lack basic services such as clean water and medical care, according to international aid groups.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s diplomatic chief, on Sunday called the situation in Gaza “beyond words” while speaking in Brussels alongside Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa.

Displaced Palestinians living in a destroyed school
Displaced Palestinians living in a destroyed school in Khan Yunis, Gaza © Haitham Imas/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Israeli military said on Sunday that aid entering Gaza had doubled from the previous week and that the supplies included 300,000 liters of fuel to provide essential services in shelters and hospitals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls to halt Israel’s offensive, along with accusations of war crimes by the International Criminal Court prosecutor, who last week sought arrest warrants against him and his minister. defense.

Netanyahu maintains that his forces will seek a “total victory” against Hamas.

The Palestinian militant group fired long-range rockets into central Israel, including Tel Aviv, on Sunday for the first time in months, in a demonstration of the capabilities it retains despite the Israeli campaign. The IDF later said eight rockets were fired from Rafah.

Benny Gantz, a member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, said: “The Rafah fire today shows that the IDF has to operate everywhere Hamas is located.” Israeli officials insist that military action is needed in Rafah to eliminate the last four Hamas battalions standing and cut off the group’s access to smuggling routes from Egypt.

In recent weeks, Israeli special forces have also recovered the bodies of six hostages held by Hamas since October 7. According to Israeli officials, 125 Israeli citizens and foreigners remain detained in Gaza, and 39 have been confirmed dead.

Negotiations for his release as part of a ceasefire agreement tentatively resumed over the weekend in Paris when Israel’s Mossad chief David Barnea met with CIA chief Bill Burns and Prime Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

Previous talks collapsed earlier this month as mediators struggled to bridge the gap between the warring parties, mainly over whether a deal would completely stop the conflict or simply pause it. Netanyahu has rejected any provision that could stop the war.

The Israeli official said discussions in Paris focused on “building a foundation” to allow for “renewed negotiations” based on new proposals led by American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

Additional information from Henry Foy

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