Israel persists in Rafah operation as Cairo truce talks collapse

Following the collapse of ceasefire talks in Cairo, an Israeli official stated on Thursday that Israeli forces will persist in their operation in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. 

In the east of Rafah, Israel has already defied international objections by sending in tanks and conducting what it calls “targeted raids.” However, Hamas authorities in Rafah dismissed Israel’s description of its operation as “limited” as “nothing but lies.” 

Earlier, delegations from Hamas, Israel, Qatar, and the U.S. left Cairo without reaching a ceasefire agreement, as reported by Egypt’s state-affiliated Al-Qahera News TV channel.

Displaced Palestinians rest as they set up their tent after returning to Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 9, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. /CFP

Displaced Palestinians rest as they set up their tent after returning to Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 9, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. /CFP

On Thursday, in a phone conversation, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for concerted international efforts to ensure the success of ongoing mediation endeavors to reach a ceasefire deal in the Gaza Strip. 

After reviewing the latest developments in the Gaza Strip at all levels, including Egyptian mediation efforts to reach a truce agreement, al-Sisi and Guterres warned against the catastrophic repercussions of the latest Israeli military operations in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah. These operations pose a serious impediment to the evacuation of the wounded and sick for treatment, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid and relief into the sector.

Humanitarian aid packages are dropped on the Gaza Strip on May 9, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. /CFP

Humanitarian aid packages are dropped on the Gaza Strip on May 9, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. /CFP

Biden’s warning on arms supplies prompts Israeli defiance

U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would withhold arms supplies if Israel proceeded with its assault on Rafah drew a defiant reaction on Wednesday, alongside unease at the possible longer-term fallout from the open clash with Israel’s most vital ally. 

The warning came after months of increasingly urgent calls for restraint by officials from Biden’s administration, which has been paying a heavy political price for its continued support for Israel despite the mounting death toll in Gaza. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would fight “with our fingernails” if necessary, and his ministers united in defying the warning. 

Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, stated that Israeli forces had sufficient ammunition for the Rafah operation and other planned operations.

UNRWA closes headquarters in East Jerusalem

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced on Thursday that it has decided to close down its East Jerusalem headquarters after armed Israelis repeatedly set fires near the site. 

Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of UNRWA, stated on the social media platform X that the fire, the second in less than a week, occurred when their staff were on the compound.

There were no casualties among the staff, but the fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas, Lazzarini said, noting “it is an outrageous development and the lives of UN staff were at serious risk.”

Over the past two months, “Israeli extremists” have been staging protests outside the compound, said Lazzarini. This week, the protest became violent while demonstrators threw stones at UN staff and the buildings of the compound.  

Israel has been highly critical of UNRWA, accusing a significant number of its employees of involvement in Hamas operations.

(With input from agencies)