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Israel seizes 'operational control' of Rafah crossing in Gaza

Israeli military cuts off vital road that connects southern city to Egypt, after major overnight operation
Israel's 401st Brigade's tanks entering the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on 7 May 2024 (AFP/Israeli army handout)
The tanks of Israel's 401st Brigade entering the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip on 7 May 2024 (AFP/Israeli army handout)

The Israeli military said it has taken "operational control" of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing, the only point of exit and entry between Gaza and Egypt

The military said that its 401st Armoured Brigade captured the crossing in southern Gaza on Tuesday morning, following an overnight military operation. 

The 84th Givati Brigade disconnected Salah al-Din road in eastern Rafah from the crossing with Egypt during the operation. The Israeli military said it killed 20 Hamas fighters and found three tunnel shafts.

Gaza's General Authority for Crossings and Borders said that passenger entry, as well as aid deliveries into the Rafah crossing have been halted following Israel's invasion of the area.

The Israeli flag was raised on flag poles at the crossing, while the Palestinian flag was pulled to the ground.

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An Israeli army vehicle was also seen driving along the Gaza-Egypt boundary, holding up a huge Israeli flag and the flag of the 401st Brigade.

Footage taken from an Israeli tank posted on social media showed the vehicle bulldozing a sign reading: "I (heart) Gaza"

"Gaza’s only window to the world is being stormed & destroyed by Israeli tanks," said Gaza-based Palestinian journalist Hind Khoudary.

The Rafah crossing is a vital lifeline for Palestinians, as the only gateway in and out of the enclave not directly controlled by Israel. Since Hamas took control of the territory in 2007, the crossing has been jointly controlled by Egypt and Hamas. 

The Israeli military said the Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing along the boundary between Gaza, Israel and Egypt, which Israeli authorities control, had also been closed for security reasons and that it will reopen once the security situation allows.

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Unrwa, UN agency for Palestinian refugees, wrote on X: "Continued interruption of the entry of aid and fuel supplies at the Rafah crossing will halt the critical humanitarian response across the Gaza Strip.

"The catastrophic hunger faced by people especially in northern #Gaza will get much worse if these supply routes are interrupted."

Over one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering in Rafah, many in makeshift homes and tents. 

On Monday, Israel ordered 250,000 Palestinians to leave Rafah, as it began to heavily bombard the eastern part of the city ahead of its planned ground invasion. 

Palestinians currently in Rafah have told Middle East Eye that the people sheltering there are in a state of panic, and are concerned that they will not be safe even if they leave, given their experiences in Gaza over the past seven months.

At least 54 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 34,789 people killed since war began on 7 October. Additionally, 78,204 Palestinians have been wounded during that period.

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