IDF takes operational control of Rafah crossing
Israeli tanks roll up to the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing on May 7, 2024. Photo: IDF

Israeli military strikes more than 100 Hamas sites in the southern Gaza city • Senior Israeli officials: Hamas ceasefire claims a stunt.

By Joshua Marks
May 7, 2024

The Israel Defense Forces took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt on Tuesday morning, as tanks from the 401st Armored Brigade of the 162nd Division rolled right up to the station.

The Israeli flag was raised at the Rafah crossing and video showed an armored vehicle arriving at one of the buildings there, next to a sign that says “Gaza” in English. The IDF shared pictures and video of the moments that the Rafah crossing was captured.

“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 on Tuesday morning.

Israel’s War Cabinet on Monday night decided unanimously to “continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to promote the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war,” per the Prime Minister’s Office.

A source familiar with the Israeli plans told CNN that the operation in Rafah would be “very limited” in scope and is intended to pressure Hamas to agree to a hostage-release deal. The source said that the operation is not the full-scale ground offensive that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared will take place and that U.S. President Joe Biden opposes.

The Crossing Points Authority has announced a complete halt to passenger traffic and aid into the Gaza Strip.

Separately, the IDF’s Givati Brigade captured the Salah a-Din road in eastern Rafah in an overnight offensive.

The capture of the crossing comes after the IDF announced on Monday night that it was conducting precision strikes against Hamas targets in eastern Rafah. More than 100 Hamas sites were hit in the city, where the majority of the terror group’s remaining forces are located.

An Israeli tank positioned on the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing on May 7, 2024. Credit: IDF.

During the overnight operation, the IDF said that some 20 gunmen were killed and that Israeli forces located three “significant” tunnel shafts.

Additionally, the military said that an explosives-laden car was destroyed after approaching an IDF tank.

Israeli forces were also scanning the area for rocket-launch sites, including the site from which Sunday’s attack on Kibbutz Kerem Shalom was launched. Four Israeli soldiers were killed and at least three others seriously wounded in that attack.

Rafah-based terrorists again aimed at Kerem Shalom on Tuesday morning, firing two rockets and later four mortars, according to the IDF. One of the rockets hit an open area and the other fell short inside Gaza, the army said, adding that there was no damage or injuries from either of the attacks.

No IDF injuries were reported during the overnight operation.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 News, which cited Arab media, IDF ground forces entered eastern Rafah overnight Monday, accompanied by heavy airstrikes, including so-called “Belt of Fire” barrages, which entail setting off rings of explosions around terrorist infrastructure.

Earlier Monday, the IDF called on residents of eastern Rafah to evacuate to newly established humanitarian zones.

The IDF has marked out two evacuation zones: an expansion of the Al-Mawasi zone, along the central-southern Gazan coastline, and Khan Yunis.

Monday’s message directs noncombatants to the expanded area in Al-Mawasi, which includes field hospitals, tents and increased amounts of food, water, medicine and other supplies.

The Cabinet decided on the evacuation on Sunday night, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant informing U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin of the decision.

Meanwhile, Hamas on Monday claimed it had accepted a ceasefire deal proposed by mediators, in what senior officials in Jerusalem described as “an exercise by Hamas meant to present Israel as the refuser.”

The proposal that Hamas claimed to have agreed to is unknown to Israel and the United States and did not come up in Netanyahu’s conversation with Biden, stressed a senior Israeli political official cited by Ynet.

Jerusalem is nevertheless dispatching a delegation to Cairo to continue negotiations, while the operation in Rafah continues.

National Unity Party MK Ze’ev Elkin told Ynet that it was good that the Rafah operation was finally underway.

“I hope it will be broad and that we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there,” he said. “It was right to act there already months ago.”

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