Israeli tanks roll into Rafah amid cease-fire uncertainty

Richard EngelNBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent, Host of MSNBC’s “On Assignment with Richard Engel”

JERUSALEM — A key sticking point in cease-fire talks is the future of Hamas in Gaza. The terms presented by Hamas strongly suggest that the militant group would remain in power, which is something Israel has said it would never accept.

Government in Muslim-majority Malaysia defends expo featuring Israel weapons suppliers

Jeremy Zhu

Officials in Malaysia defended a government-backed defense exhibition after pro-Palestinian protesters demanded the expulsion of companies such as American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin that supply Israel with weapons.

A handful of demonstrators protested the companies’ participation in the Defense Services Asia exhibition today in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, local media reported. The government of the Muslim-majority nation has been vocal in its criticism of Israel and protesters said the inclusion of the companies in the exhibition was inconsistent with Malaysia’s support for Palestinian statehood.

In a statement, Defense Minister Khaled Nordin said that while Malaysia opposes all forms of injustice against Palestinians, “Malaysia is a free trade country that allows space for all global industry players to market their products and services in Malaysia.”

The Malaysian public’s opposition to Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip has given rise to consumer boycotts of American restaurant chains such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFC, with KFC saying last week that it had temporarily closed some outlets in the country.

Interruption of aid through Rafah crossing will worsen already ‘catastrophic’ situation, UNRWA says

Any “continued interruption” of the entry of aid and fuel supplies through the Rafah crossing will only worsen an already “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in Gaza, a U.N. agency has warned.

The U.N. aid agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, issued the warning after Israeli ground forces seized control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. It comes after the Kerem Shalom crossing was also closed following an attack on Sunday that saw four Israeli soldiers killed.

A continued interruption of the flow of aid at the Rafah Crossing in southern Gaza would “halt the critical humanitarian response” across the strip, UNRWA warned. “The catastrophic hunger faced by people especially in northern Gaza will get much worse if these supply routes are interrupted,” it said.

On Sunday, Cindy McCain, head of the U.N. World Food Program, warned in an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” that northern Gaza has already entered “full-blown famine,” with the south at risk of following suit.

Rafah operation could threaten cease-fire, Egypt warns, as Gazans hope for a deal

Hopes were high among Palestinians in Gaza for a deal to bring an end to fighting in the enclave and see hostages released after Israel agreed to send a delegation for talks set to resume in Cairo today.

But as Egypt prepared to host the talks, it signaled that Israel’s military actions in Rafah could imperil the negotiations. Condemning Israeli forces’ ground operation in the city, including its takeover of control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the move was a “dangerous escalation.”

“The Arab Republic of Egypt called on the Israeli side to exercise the utmost levels of restraint, and to stay away from a policy of brinkmanship that has long-term impact, and that would threaten the fate of the strenuous efforts made to reach a sustainable truce inside the Gaza Strip,” it said in a statement this morning, also calling on the international community to intervene.

In Gaza, many Palestinians expressed relief and joy over the Hamas announcement that it had accepted a proposal. One woman told NBC News’ crew on the ground she felt “indescribable” joy. “We are so happy,” Manar Elfara said. “I wish that peace prevails and there will be no more war, God willing.”

In apparent show of dominance, Israel shows troops entering Rafah

Richard EngelNBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent, Host of MSNBC’s “On Assignment with Richard Engel”

JERUSALEM — In an apparent show of dominance, Israel released images this morning of its troops storming into Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, a key transit point for aid into the enclave. 

It came after Israel ordered the evacuation of some 100,000 Palestinians from eastern neighborhoods of Rafah yesterday, saying it was conducting “targeted strikes” against Hamas. 

It gave civilians little time to leave the city which is home to more than 1 million people, many of them displaced from other parts of the enclave. An NBC News crew filmed bombings within hours of the evacuation notice being issued. 

Palestinian health officials said more than 20 people were killed in the operation overnight, including children. The bodies today were handed over to their families.

Watch: Video shows Israeli tanks entering the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing

Nikolai Miller

Video released by the Israeli military this morning showed tanks entering the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing as IDF troops took control of the area.

Israeli operation in Rafah is ‘very limited’ and not start of ground offensive, source tells NBC News

Raf Sanchez

TEL AVIV — Israel’s ground incursion into Rafah is “a very limited” operation designed to achieve tactical military goals and put pressure on Hamas in the cease-fire negotiations, an Israeli official tells NBC News.

It is not the start of the large-scale ground offensive that Netanyahu has been threatening for months, the official said. 

Israeli negotiators are heading to Cairo today to try bridge the gaps between the Israeli-approved proposal and the Hamas-approved proposal, the official said. Israel’s War Cabinet will likely convene only after there is an update from the negotiations.

IDF says ‘vast majority’ of people in eastern Rafah have evacuated

The “vast majority” of people ordered to evacuate parts of eastern Rafah have left the area, the Israeli military said this morning after launching what it stressed was a limited ground operation last night in the city, where more than a million Palestinians have taken shelter.

Israeli forces have been targeting “specific” areas based on “precise intelligence,” the IDF said in a briefing this morning. Among those targets has been the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing, which Israeli forces took operational control of last night.

The IDF said it was acting on intelligence indicating the Rafah Crossing was being used for “terrorist purposes” after alleging the area around the crossing had been used to launch a mortar attack that saw four Israeli soldiers killed over the weekend. The IDF said that since Israeli forces launched their ground operation, around 20 militants had been killed.

“We have indications, part of it was the shooting two days ago but we have also intelligence indications that the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing and I emphasize the Gazan side of the Rafah crossing was being used for terrorist purposes by Hamas,” the IDF said. The IDF did not immediately provide evidence to support its claims.

Entry of aid through Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings ‘completely stopped’

The movement of aid into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings has “completely stopped,” a spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority said this morning.

He said the movement of people through the border crossings had also been halted, including the passage of injured and sick people approved for evacuation from the enclave.

“Closing the Rafah crossing condemns cancer patients and the wounded to death in light of the collapse of the health system in the strip,” he said, comparing any closure of the Rafah crossing to a death sentence for Palestinians. COGAT, Israel’s military liaison with the Palestinians, noted yesterday on its website that thousands of injured and sick people have been evacuated from the enclave.

In a separate statement, the Palestinian Crossings Authority said all employees at the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings had withdrawn from their posts before Israeli troops approached. The IDF said this morning that the Kerem Shalom crossing would reopen once security conditions allow.

IDF says its forces have taken control of the Rafah border crossing

Israeli tank forces have taken control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, the Israeli Defense Forces said, in what it called a “precise counterterrorism operation.”

“Following intelligence that indicated that the Rafah Crossing in eastern Rafah was being used for terrorist purposes, IDF troops managed to establish operational control of the Gazan side of the crossing,” the IDF said in a statement.

The IDF did not provide evidence to immediately support the assertion, though it alleged the area around the crossing had been used to launch a mortar attack that killed four Israeli troops over the weekend.

It added that ground troops and airstrikes also targeted suspected Hamas positions in Rafah as part of the operation. “IDF ground troops are continuing to operate against Hamas terrorist operatives and infrastructure in the area of the Rafah Crossing in eastern Rafah,” the IDF said.

The Israeli army had previously warned people in eastern Rafah to evacuate into what it said was an expanded humanitarian zone.


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