Hamas agrees to ceasefire proposal as Israel attacks Rafah

A few hours after the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement announced that it would agree to the mediators' proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza, the Israeli army attacked targets in the east of the city of Rafah late on Monday evening. According to an army spokesman, the targets were Hamas facilities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war Cabinet had previously decided to continue the military operation in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip in order to increase the military pressure on Hamas and achieve Israel's war aims. 'While the Hamas proposal is far from meeting Israel's core demands, Israel will dispatch a ranking delegation to Egypt in an effort to maximize the possibility of reaching an agreement on terms acceptable to Israel,' a statement from Netanyahu's office said. Palestinian media reported late on Monday that Israeli forces were pushing into the Kerem Shalom crossing area. Al-Aqsa TV reported Israeli tanks were firing at the crossing from some 200 metres away. The border crossing with Egypt is the most important corridor for the delivery of food, medicine and other urgently needed supplies to Gaza. Hamas had approved a proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza war put forward by mediators Egypt and Qatar, according to a post in Hamas' official Telegram channel on Monday evening. The Hamas statement said that the head of Hamas' Politburo Ismail Haniyeh 'called Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and the Egyptian Minister of Intelligence Abbas Kamel, informing them of Hamas' acceptance of their proposal for a ceasefire agreement.' Indirect negotiations will resume on Tuesday, with a Qatari delegation heading to Cairo, a spokesperson for Qatar's foreign ministry said in a statement. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the announcement, WAFA news agency reported and Al Arabiya channel aired images of jubilant people in the streets. 'Enough war. We are happy,' one resident told the channel. Israel's far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, dismissed the announcement as a 'trick' and said the only Israeli response should be 'an immediate order to conquer Rafah, increase military pressure, and continue to crush Hamas until it is utterly defeated,' according to the Israeli television station Channel 12. The US government said it was examining Hamas' agreement. 'We're currently reviewing that response. And we're discussing it with our partners in the region,' US National Security Council Communications Director John Kirby said. 'We still believe that reaching an agreement is the absolute best outcome not only for the hostages, but for the Palestinian people. And we're not going to stop working to that outcome.' The Hamas announcement came as Israeli forces began evacuating the city of Rafah. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) called on the inhabitants of the eastern part of the city on the border with Egypt to move to the al-Mawasi camp on the Mediterranean a few kilometres to the north. An estimated 100,000 people are affected, according to an IDF spokes man. They were informed by text message, telephone, leaflets and via Arabic-language media. Eyewitnesses in Rafah reported that many people quickly fled, some transporting their belongings in donkey carts. Israel's allies and other international leaders have been urgently warning against a Rafah offensive, including France, Germany, Britain and Jordan, as well as the European Union and the United Nations. 'We believe a military operation in Rafah right now would dramatically increase the suffering of the Palestinian people,' US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, casting doubt on whether the evacuation demanded by Israel could be done safely. Israel has been threatening to launch a ground offensive into Rafah for months. Hamas invaded Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. The more than 100 remaining hostages are believed to be held in Rafah. Relatives of hostages have urged the Israeli government to negotiate a deal, and demanded an explanation in a let ter to Israeli Cabinet ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot on Monday. 'We family members are watching in horror what is happening,' they wrote. 'Netanyahu is deliberately destroying the deal and leaving the hostages to die.' 'Now it's time for the Israeli government to prove, with action, its commitment to its citizens,' the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said. 'The Cabinet must take Hamas' acceptance and turn it into a deal for returning all the hostages.' Mahmoud Merdawi, a senior Hamas member, told dpa on Monday that Israel's preparations to attack Rafah would have a negative impact on the indirect negotiations and 'catastrophic consequences' for the local population. According to the Hamas-controlled health authority in Gaza, 34,735 Palestinians have been killed and more than 78,000 others injured since the war began seven months ago. The figures, which do not distinguish between civilians and fighters, cannot be independently verified. Source: Ghana News Agency