Hamas warns that the Israeli invasion of Rafah will “torture” the truce talks News of the Israeli war on Gaza
The Palestinian group issued a warning while Biden said Israel should not invade without a “credible” plan to protect civilians.
Hamas has warned Israel about this Ground attack in Rafah It would jeopardize negotiations on a truce and prisoner exchange, with US President Joe Biden saying the attack should not continue without a “credible” plan to protect civilians in the city.
Aid groups and foreign governments, including the United States, Israel’s main ally, have expressed deep concern over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to expand ground military operations to Gaza City in the far south.
Rafah, located on the border with Egypt, is the last refuge for Palestinians fleeing ongoing Israeli bombardment elsewhere in the Gaza Strip in its four-month-long war against Hamas, sparked by the Palestinian movement’s October 7 attack.
A Hamas leader told Agence France-Presse, requesting that his identity not be revealed, that “any attack by the occupation army on the city of Rafah would undermine the exchange negotiations.”
Netanyahu told troops to prepare to enter the city, which now hosts more than half of Gaza’s total population, raising concerns about the impact on displaced civilians.
A senior Biden administration official said on Sunday that negotiators working on a phased framework agreement to release the remaining hostages had made “real progress” over the past few weeks.
The hostage release deal was the main focus of a 45-minute phone call between Biden and Netanyahu on Sunday, although there were still some “significant” gaps to fill, the official said, adding: “They’re pretty much there.”
The White House said Biden told Netanyahu that progress in Gaza should not move forward in the absence of a “credible” plan to ensure the “safety” of people sheltering there.
Some 1.4 million Palestinians have crowded into Rafah, many of them living in tents while food, water and medicine have become increasingly scarce.
Netanyahu had told US news channel ABC that the Rafah operation would continue until Hamas was eliminated, adding that Israel would provide “safe passage” for civilians wishing to leave.
When asked where they could go, Netanyahu said: “You know, the areas we cleared north of Rafah, there are a lot of areas there. But we are working on a detailed plan.”
Mediators held new talks in Cairo in order to stop the fighting and release some of the 132 hostages that Israel says are still in Gaza, including 29 believed to be dead.
Hamas took about 240 hostages on October 7, according to Israeli authorities. Dozens were released during a week-long truce in November.
The military wing of Hamas said on Sunday that two hostages were killed and eight others were seriously injured in Israeli bombing in recent days.
Netanyahu faces calls for early elections and growing protests over his administration’s failure to return the hostages to their homeland.
North of Rafah on Sunday, the Israeli military said its forces were carrying out “targeted strikes” west of Khan Yunis, the main city in southern Gaza, while Hamas reported violent clashes and said air strikes had also hit Rafah.
The unprecedented attack launched by Hamas on October 7 on southern Israel led to the killing of about 1,139 people, most of them civilians, according to Al Jazeera statistics based on official Israeli figures.
Israel responded with a relentless attack on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which the Strip’s health ministry says has killed at least 28,176 people, most of them women and children.
The Israeli attack led to the destruction of a large portion of the territory and the displacement of more than 80 percent of the population.
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