Day after rejecting truce, Israel intensifies attack

DOHA/TEL AVIV: Israeli forces bombed areas in the southern border city of Rafah where more than half of Gaza’s population is sheltering on Thursday, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal to end the war in the Palestinian enclave.

Netanyahu said on Wednesday terms proposed by Hamas for a ceasefire that would also involve releasing hostages held by the Palestinian militant group were “delusional” and vowed to fight on, saying victory was in reach and just months away.

The rejection followed intense diplomacy to end the four-and-a-half-month conflict before a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah, which is now home to over a million people, many of them in makeshift tents and lacking food and medicine.

Israeli planes bombed areas in Rafah on Thursday morning, residents said, killing at least 11 people in strikes on two houses. Tanks also shelled some areas in eastern Rafah, intensifying the residents’ fears of an imminent ground assault.

Despite Israel’s rejection of the Hamas proposal, more talks are planned. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had shuttled between mediators in pursuit of a deal this week on his fifth trip to the region since the start of the war, said he still saw room for negotiations.

In a late-night press conference in a Tel Aviv hotel on Wednesday beefore wrapping up his Midde East tour, Blinken said elements of the proposal put forward by Hamas had contained clear “non-starters”, without saying what they were, but that he would push on with talks. “And that’s especially true in the case of Rafah, where there are somewhere between 1.2 and 1.4 million people, many of them displaced from other parts of Gaza.”

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William Murphy

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