Israeli military takes control of vital Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt

RAFAH, Gaza Strip/CAIRO (Reuters) – Israeli forces seized the main border crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza on Tuesday, shutting down a vital aid route into the Palestinian enclave that is already on the brink of famine.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas accused Israel of trying to undermine efforts to secure a ceasefire in the seven-month-long war that has laid waste to Gaza and left hundreds of thousands of its people homeless and hungry.

Israeli army footage showed tanks rolling through the Rafah crossing complex and the Israeli flag raised on the Gaza side.

U.N. and other international aid agencies said the closing of the two crossings into southern Gaza – Rafah and Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom – had virtually cut the enclave off from outside aid and very few stores were available inside.

Red Crescent sources in Egypt said shipments had completely halted.

“The Israeli occupation has sentenced the residents of the Strip to death,” said Hisham Edwan, spokesperson for the Gaza Border Crossing Authority.

The seizure of the Rafah crossing came despite weeks of calls from the United States, other governments and international bodies for Israel to hold off from a big offensive in the Rafah area – said by Israel to be the last stronghold of Hamas fighters but also the refuge of more than one million displaced Palestinian civilians.

Many of the people now in Rafah were struggling to find a safe place to go in the tiny strip of land which has been bombarded almost non-stop since Hamas fighters stormed over the border into Israel on Oct. 7.

Families have been crammed into tented camps and makeshift shelters, suffering from shortages of food, water, medicine and other essentials. Aid agencies say famine is imminent as not enough food aid is reaching the enclave.

Residents said Israeli tanks and planes also attacked several areas and houses in Rafah overnight on Monday and on Tuesday. The Gaza health ministry said Israeli strikes across the enclave had killed 54 Palestinians and wounded 96 others in the past 24 hours.


On Tuesday morning, people searched for bodies under the rubble of wrecked buildings.

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