Israel forces take Rafah crossing, angering Egypt, endangering Gaza help | EUROtoday

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JERUSALEM — Israeli forces took management of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday, making their first floor incursion into the densely packed southern Gaza metropolis, shutting down the movement of help, sending hundreds of civilians fleeing and infuriating neighboring Egypt.

An official from the Israel Defense Forces stated infantry troops and an armored battalion gained “operational control” of the Palestinian facet of the crossing. The official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity in keeping with military protocol, stated 20 militants had been killed and three tunnel shafts uncovered in what he described as a “specific targeted operation” that continued on Tuesday morning.

The Israel Defense Forces stated it had taken “operational control” of Gaza’s facet of the Rafah crossing on May 7, halting all help movement into the Strip. (Video: Naomi Schanen/The Washington Post)

The operation imperiled already fragile Israeli relations with Egypt, which has repeatedly warned Israel that army motion on the border might violate a four-decade-old peace treaty between the 2 nations.

“Egypt vehemently denounces the Israeli military operation in Palestinian Rafah, which has resulted in Israel controlling the Palestinian side of the border,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated in an announcement.

It described the incursion as a “dangerous escalation” that was threatening cease-fire efforts, including that the operation endangered the lives of the million Palestinians who rely on the crossing for humanitarian help and a “safe way out for the injured and patients to get treatment.”

Both the Rafah crossing and Kerem Shalom, the 2 major help entry factors to the south, have been closed by the combating, in accordance with Israeli and Palestinian officers.

Number of help vehicles entered per day

Number of help vehicles entered per day

Number of help vehicles entered per day

Number of help vehicles entered per day

A photograph circulated on-line and geolocated by The Washington Post confirmed two Israeli flags raised on the Palestinian facet of the crossing level. Another video confirmed an armored car ramming right into a “Gaza” signal flanked by two Palestinian flags by the arrivals corridor.

The operation got here lower than 24 hours after Israel dropped leaflets over town — now harboring greater than 1,000,000 Palestinians, round half of Gaza’s whole inhabitants — ordering them to depart massive elements of it. The United States has urged Israel to not perform an offensive in Rafah with out a “credible” plan to evacuate civilians.

But Israel seems intent on upping the strain on Hamas, whose army capabilities it goals to destroy, whereas additionally giving itself extra leverage because it sends mediators to Cairo to achieve a deal on liberating its remaining hostages held by Hamas. Just hours earlier than Israel launched its in a single day assault, Hamas stated it might comply with a Qatari-Egyptian cease-fire proposal, reviving hopes of an prolonged pause.

It was a day of whiplash for residents, with celebrations over the Hamas acceptance of a deal minimize quick by intense bombing forward of the Israeli operation. On Tuesday, hundreds crammed the roads to depart, although there was little transport or gasoline, stated Nebal Farsakh, spokeswoman for the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

“There’s no way to evacuate this number of people safely,” she stated, including that individuals had scant discover to evacuate earlier than the bombardment started forward of Israel’s operation. “There’s no way to evacuate half of the population,” she added.

The Israel Defense Forces on May 6 ordered 100,000 civilians in Rafah to “evacuate immediately” to a humanitarian zone forward of army motion there. (Video: Naomi Schanen/The Washington Post)

Over the previous six months of conflict, Rafah has develop into a final refuge for Palestinians, with tents and makeshift encampments choking streets and its open areas. In addition to the United States, a slew of Israel’s allies have voiced their issues over an invasion of town.

Israel’s actions depart the Egyptian authorities in a “very embarrassing situation,” stated a former Egyptian politician with information of official considering. Cairo will probably be below public strain to react with a transfer resembling suspending the peace accords between the 2 nations, he stated. Like different officers who mentioned behind-the-scenes diplomacy, he spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of sensitivity of the subject.

For months, Egypt has warned Israel towards invading Rafah — apprehensive mainly concerning the prospect of a full-scale incursion driving mass displacement of Palestinians into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which officers have described as a purple line. Egypt, with its staunchly pro-Palestinian inhabitants, is worried about being seen as complicit within the pressured displacement of Palestinians. Cairo can be apprehensive about turning into embroiled within the battle, notably if Hamas militants had been to flee to Sinai or if clashes alongside the border had been to spill over into Egyptian territory.

It has additionally particularly warned towards any Israeli transfer to safe the no man’s land between Gaza and Egypt, generally known as the Philadelphi Corridor, a nine-mile-long stretch that Israel managed earlier than it withdrew from the realm in 2005.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nevertheless, has repeatedly stated that Israel can not get rid of Hamas with out exercising authority over the border area, together with the Rafah crossing.

However a lot the transfer has rankled Cairo, the peace treaty is a core pillar within the regional safety structure and Egypt is unlikely to wish to jeopardize it, stated H.A. Hellyer, a specialist in Middle East safety on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He described the vary of choices out there to Egypt as an act of censure as “fairly limited.”

The United States, Egypt and Qatar are persevering with to push for a cease-fire to avert a full scale invasion and each Israeli and Hamas delegations had been anticipated in Cairo as early as Tuesday night.

In the primary of three phases of the deal, militants would launch 33 girls, youngsters and aged hostages, with three launched each three days in trade for dozens of Palestinian prisoners. It additionally contains provisions for Palestinians to return house and Israeli troops to withdraw from populated areas.

But an Israeli official, talking on the situation of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks, stated there are components within the newest Hamas proposal that Israel has not agreed to. The Hamas supply brings ahead the purpose at which the 2 sides would negotiate a full cease-fire, whereas Hamas can be saying that it’s unable to launch 33 dwell hostages within the first section. It can be demanding that Israel drops a veto on the Palestinian prisoners who’re launched in trade for the hostages.

The former Egyptian official, nevertheless, countered that the deal “was agreed by the Israeli cabinet before that and we sent it to Hamas.”

While the IDF has asserted that the “vast majority” of the greater than 100,000 civilians within the evacuation zone have already left the realm, many reached in Rafah stated they’d few technique of leaving, and help organizations have warned that the Mawasi space in western Gaza the place individuals have been informed to maneuver to is poorly outfitted to deal with an inflow.

Abeer Maher, 36, a mom of three who was displaced from Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood earlier within the conflict and fled to Rafah, stated that transportation prices made it unattainable for a lot of to depart. A automotive to the southern metropolis of Khan Younis now prices greater than $300, she stated.

“I am seriously terrified,” she stated, including that bombing exterior the evacuation zone had saved her household up all evening. Many left on foot, bundling their few belongings into luggage or onto carts.

Israel’s seizure of the border crossing is more likely to considerably impair the entry of humanitarian help into the besieged enclave, together with to the north, the place the danger of famine has been most acute.

“The hunger disaster that people are facing, especially in northern Gaza, will get worse if supplies stop coming in,” stated Inas Hamdan, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Farsakh, from the PRCS, described the closure of the crossings as “catastrophic.”

In current months, Israeli authorities have labored to spice up the quantity of help moving into Gaza, opening Erez crossing within the north of the enclave. But the southern entry factors nonetheless stay very important.

Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF consultant in Egypt, informed The Post on that his group was very involved concerning the state of affairs.

“What we continue to advocate for is for there to be additional means of ensuring humanitarian aid goes into Gaza — we need more border points open, we need more options to serve different parts of the Gaza Strip.”

But total, he added, to ease the struggling of civilians in Gaza: “The only solution is a cessation of hostilities now and that’s the safest thing for children in the Gaza Strip. So we call on all parties to cease hostilities now and then we can access those in need.”

Mahfouz and Parker reported from Cairo and Rubin from Tel Aviv. Hajar Harb in London, Hazem Balousha in Cairo, Evan Hill in Tokyo and Samuel Granados in Córdoba contributed.