Israel Seizes Strategic Border Crossing in Rafah

Israeli soldiers operate amid the ruins of buildings, at a location given as the Gaza Strip (Reuters)
May 7, 2024

The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday seized control of a strategic border crossing in Rafah as part of the military’s plan to enter the southern Gazan city and eliminate the remaining Hamas terrorists.

The IDF said the seized border crossing between Rafah and Egypt was being "used for terrorist purposes," calling the overnight takeover of the crossing "a precise counterterrorism operation to eliminate Hamas terrorists and infrastructure within specific areas." Hamas had reportedly used the area near the crossing to launch a mortar attack that killed four Israeli soldiers.

Additional mortars and rockets were fired "from the area of Rafah toward Israeli territory" on Tuesday, according to the Israeli military, which called the attack "further evidence of Hamas's systematic exploitation of the area of Rafah for terrorist purposes."

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said the IDF would move forward with its planned military operation in Rafah, disregarding President Joe Biden’s objection and citing the need to eliminate the last significant Hamas stronghold in Gaza. "We will continue to operate and eliminate every threat against Israeli civilians," the IDF said on Tuesday.

An Israeli official told CBS News on Tuesday that Netanyahu and his cabinet are "determined to achieve Israel's war objectives: Destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, free the hostages and ensure that Gaza does not pose a threat to Israel and the civilized world in the future."

Israel’s takeover of the Rafah crossing came a day after the IDF ordered around 100,000 Palestinian civilians to evacuate eastern Rafah immediately and head to a nearby Israel-declared humanitarian zone. 

The area, called Muwasi, is already sheltering nearly half a million Palestinian refugees, although Israel said it had recently expanded the zone to include more food, water, tents, medical supplies, and field hospitals.

Just hours after the evacuation announcement, Hamas said it had accepted a ceasefire deal mediated by Egypt and Qatar. Netanyahu rejected the proposed terms as "far from Israel’s necessary requirements," and Israel’s war cabinet "unanimously decided" to continue military operations and eliminate Hamas terrorists in Rafah.