Israel Gaza: Ceasefire talks resume as Rafah under fire

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More than a million people are crammed into a small corner of South Gaza

Ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have resumed in Cairo, Egyptian media say.

Senior officials from the US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar are meeting as Israel faces strong international pressure to halt its bombing of the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

About 1.5 million people are crammed into this small border town, fearing an Israeli ground offensive.

Benjamin Netanyahu said a “total victory” was possible in Gaza within months.

He later ordered Israeli forces to prepare to expand their ground operation and vowed to defeat Hamas gunmen hiding in Rafah.

But UN human rights chief Volker Türk said any attack on the city would be “terrifying” and that many civilians would “likely be killed.”

Rafah has been confronted with heavy Israeli airstrikes in recent days, causing deaths and injuries.

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Watch: How did Rafah become home to 1.5 million Palestinians?

Discussions in Cairo continue despite Israel’s rejection of Hamas’ terms.

Mr Netanyahu has sent his intelligence chief, David Barnea, to the talks to try to make further progress – Israeli media said he did so under US pressure.

He will be accompanied by US Central Intelligence Agency head William Burns, Egyptian intelligence officials and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

A framework for a temporary ceasefire is on the table, with Israeli hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and a period of peace.

Qatar and Egypt, with US support, have been going back and forth between Israel and Hamas in an attempt to reach an agreement.

Israel says 134 hostages are still missing out of 253 taken by Hamas-led gunmen during the October 7 attacks on southern Israel. A number of hostages have been released – including recently two male Israeli-Argentinians – but some have died.

At least 1,200 people were killed in the Hamas-led attacks.

In response, Israel launched military operations in the Gaza Strip. According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, some 28,473 Palestinians have been killed and more than 68,000 injured in Gaza since October 7.

More than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents are now crammed into Rafah, on the border with Egypt, where only 250,000 people lived before the war between Israel and Hamas.

Many of the displaced people live in makeshift shelters or tents in dire conditions, with scarce access to safe drinking water or food.

Along with the US, a number of countries and international organizations have warned Israel against launching its planned offensive.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Monday that Israel must “stop and think seriously” before taking further action in Rafah.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called on Israel’s allies to stop sending weapons because “too many people” were being killed in Gaza.

And on Tuesday, South Africa asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to consider whether the planned Israeli offensive required additional emergency measures to protect the rights of Palestinians.

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