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Israeli military seizes Gaza side of Rafah border crossing with Egypt in Gaza Strip

Israeli forces took control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in the Gaza Strip, pressing on with an offensive in the southern city as cease-fire negotiations with Hamas remain precarious.

The incursion comes after the militant group on Monday said it accepted an Egyptian-Qatari mediated cease-fire proposal. Israel insisted the deal did not meet its core demands. The high-stakes diplomatic moves and military brinkmanship left a glimmer of hope alive — but only barely — for an accord that could bring at least a pause in the 7-month-old war that has devastated the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli 401st Brigade entered the Rafah crossing early Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said, taking “operational control” of the crucial crossing. It’s the main route for aid entering the besieged enclave and exit for those able to flee into Egypt.

More than a million people are huddled in tents and overcrowded apartments in Rafah after fleeing Israel’s military offensive in other parts of the Gaza Strip. Israel says Rafah is Hamas' last stronghold, but the United States opposes a full-scale invasion of the city bordering Egypt unless Israel provides a “credible” plan for protecting civilians there.

The war in Gaza has driven around 80% of the territory's population of 2.3 million from their homes and caused vast destruction to apartments, hospitals, mosques and schools across several cities. The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, according to local health officials.

The war began Oct. 7, 2023 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Copyright Associated Press

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