Cairo ceasefire talks resume as Rafah incursion raises humanitarian catastrophe alarm

Amr Kandil , Wednesday 8 May 2024

Talks to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza will resume in Cairo on Wednesday as Israel’s incursion of Rafah enters its second day, raising alarm for a humanitarian catastrophe in the city, where over a million Palestinians live, half of whom are children.

An injured Palestinian boy awaits treatment at the Kuwaiti hospital following Israeli strikes in Rafah on May 7, 2024. AFP


A high-level source told Al-Qahera News that Wednesday's talks will resume "with all sides present," referring to Egypt, Qatar, Israel, Hamas, and the United States.

Israeli tanks invaded Rafah on Tuesday, covered by fighter jets, despite international outcry over the past weeks.

The Israeli forces have taken over the Gaza part of the Rafah border crossing, halting the delivery of aid and evacuation of injured Palestinians through the key crossing between Sinai and the strip.

The Rafah crossing has been the main entry point for daily humanitarian aid urgently needed by the 2.3 million people trapped in the territory since the war started in October.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that taking over the crossing was an “important step” toward dismantling Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, the Associated Press reported.


Israeli forces in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli Army. AFP


Meanwhile, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant threatened to deepen the operation if truce talks aiming to release Israeli captives failed.

The Rafah incursion abruptly silenced the jubilant voices of hundreds of thousands of children sheltering in Rafah displacement tents after Hamas' approval on Monday of a ceasefire proposal presented by Egypt and Qatar.

Israel says the ceasefire proposal accepted by Hamas is “far from meeting Israel’s requirements” and that Israeli negotiators in Cairo will examine the possibility of reaching a deal that conforms to conditions acceptable to Israel.

However, Netanyahu has vowed to invade Rafah “with or without a deal.”

The proposal rejected by Israel includes a full yet gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, unconditional return of the displaced people, a prisoner swap, and reconstruction of the strip.

A ceasefire proposal is at stake as Hamas official Osama Hamdan warned on Tuesday that there will be no truce agreement in case Israel continues its aggression in Rafah.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for Israel and Hamas “to go the extra mile needed" to reach an agreement and stop the present suffering.

Guterres warned that a ground invasion in Rafah would be “intolerable” due to its devastating humanitarian consequences on regional stability.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have called for not missing the chance to achieve a truce in Gaza in a phone call between their foreign ministers on Monday.


A view of tents at a camp housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah. AFP


The current round of Cairo talks started on Tuesday with all five delegations of respective sides reacting positively to the resumption of negotiations, Reuters reported, citing two Egyptian sources.

Mediators from Egypt, Qatar, and the US are strongly pushing for a deal that achieves a cessation of Israeli attacks in Gaza and facilitates exchanging dozens of captives still held by Hamas.

The US has repeatedly expressed rejection of a full-scale ground operation in Rafah but believes that the current Israeli actions in Rafah are “limited” and aim to eliminate an alleged weapon smuggling by Hamas.

The US has suspended a shipment of nearly one ton of bombs destined for Israel over concerns that Israel will potentially launch a full-scale assault on Rafah soon, a Biden administration official said on Tuesday.

Egypt has condemned the Israeli military operations in Rafah, calling for Israel to “exercise restraint and avoid the brinkmanship policy,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ministry warned that such Israeli practices endanger efforts aimed at reaching a sustainable truce in Gaza.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Hamas presented a revised ceasefire proposal, stressing that gaps between both sides can “absolutely be closed.”


Children stand behind barbed wire along a slope near a camp housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah. AFP


Israel ordered on Monday 100,000 Palestinians to leave the eastern neighbourhoods of Rafah ahead of its incursion.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF has expressed concerns over threats posed by the Rafah ground incursion to around 600,000 children sheltering in the territory.

UNICEF warned of potential harm to children with “potential evacuation corridors likely mined or littered with unexploded ordnance, and shelter and services in areas for relocation very likely to be limited.”

The future of 1.4 million people in Rafah city, representing the majority of Gaza’s population, most of whom were already displaced by the war, is at stake with Israel vowing to continue its operation.


People carry on a stretcher the body of a victim who was killed at the site of a building that was hit by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on May 7. AFP


In Rafah, the Israeli operations in Gaza over the past 24 hours have killed at least 35 Palestinians, including women and children, according to media reports, citing a medical source.

Since the war began on 7 October, Israeli forces have killed over 34,700 people, injured more than 78,100, caused extensive damage to Gaza's infrastructure, and displaced most of the strip’s residents.

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