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The Latest | Israel’s military seizes the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt

By The Associated Press

An Israeli tank brigade has seized control of the Gaza Strip side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, authorities say, moving forward with an offensive in the southern city even as cease-fire negotiations with Hamas remain on a knife’s edge.

The move comes after hours of whiplash in the Israel-Hamas war, with the militant group on Monday saying it accepted an Egyptian-Qatari mediated cease-fire proposal. Israel, meanwhile, insisted the deal did not meet its core demands. The high-stakes diplomatic moves and military brinkmanship left a glimmer of hope alive — but only barely — for an accord that could bring at least a pause in the 7-month-old war that has devastated the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli 401st Brigade entered the Rafah crossing early Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said, taking “operational control” of the crucial crossing. It’s the main route for aid entering the besieged enclave and exit for those able to flee into Egypt.

More than a million people are huddled in tents and overcrowded apartments in Rafah after fleeing Israel’s military offensive in other parts of the Gaza Strip. Israel says Rafah is Hamas’ last stronghold, but the United States opposes a full-scale invasion of the city bordering Egypt unless Israel provides a “credible” plan for protecting civilians there.

The war in Gaza has driven around 80% of the territory’s population of 2.3 million from their homes and caused vast destruction to apartments, hospitals, mosques and schools across several cities. The death toll in Gaza has soared to more than 34,500 people, according to local health officials.

The war began Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others. Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Currently:

Israeli forces take control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s the latest:

ISRAELI MILITARY TAKES CONTROL OF THE GAZA SIDE OF THE RAFAH CROSSING WITH EGYPT

JERUSALEM — An Israeli tank brigade has seized control of the Gaza Strip side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, authorities say, moving forward with an offensive in the southern city even as cease-fire negotiations with Hamas remain on a knife’s edge.

The move comes after hours of whiplash in the Israel-Hamas war, with the militant group on Monday saying it accepted an Egyptian-Qatari mediated cease-fire proposal. Israel, meanwhile, insisted the deal did not meet its core demands. The high-stakes diplomatic moves and military brinkmanship left a glimmer of hope alive — but only barely — for an accord that could bring at least a pause in the 7-month-old war that has devastated the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli 401st Brigade entered the Rafah crossing early Tuesday morning, the Israeli military said, taking “operational control” of the crucial crossing. It’s the main route for aid entering the besieged enclave and exit for those able to flee into Egypt.

HAMAS PUBLISHES FULL TEXT OF CEASE-FIRE PROPOSAL

BEIRUT — Hamas has published a copy of the cease-fire and hostage release proposal that the militant group said it had agreed to on Monday.

The framework brought forward by Qatar and Egypt aims to bring a halt to seven months of war in Gaza. However, it’s unclear if Israel will agree to the terms. The proposal outlines a phased release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza alongside the gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops from the entire enclave and ending with a “sustainable calm” or “permanent cessation of military and hostile operations.”

Israel has previously said it would not agree to either a full withdrawal of its forces or a permanent cease-fire as part of a hostage release deal.

The first stage would last 42 days and would involve a partial withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the release of about 33 hostages held in the territory, including the remaining Israeli women — both civilians and soldiers — as well as children, older adults and people who are ill.

Thirty Palestinian prisoners held in Israel would be released in exchange for each Israeli civilian hostage and 50 in exchange for each female soldier.

Palestinians displaced in Gaza would be allowed to return to their home neighborhoods during that time.

The parties would then negotiate the terms of the next stage, under which the remaining civilian men and soldiers would be released, while Israeli forces would withdraw from the rest of Gaza. This phase would be conditioned on achievement of a “sustainable calm.”

The final stage would involve exchange of the bodies of hostages who died in captivity and the beginning of a reconstruction plan for the enclave that would take place over three to five years “under the supervision of a number of countries and organizations, including: Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations.”

THOUSANDS PROTEST IN ISRAEL CALLING FOR A DEAL TO RELEASE HOSTAGES

TEL AVIV, Israel — Thousands of Israelis rallied around the country Monday night calling for an immediate deal to release the hostages still held in the Gaza Strip.

The protests came as Israel’s War Cabinet voted to begin an operation on the city of Rafah, saying that a cease-fire proposal Hamas accepted earlier in the night was not in line with Israeli demands.

In Tel Aviv, about 1,000 protesters swelled near Israel’s military headquarters, some blocking the city’s main highway until late into the night. Police tried to clear the road, lifting some protesters off the street and extinguishing fires lit during the demonstration. Other officers on horseback surrounded crowds who chanted “deal now!”

In Jerusalem, hundreds of protesters called for a hostage deal. They marched toward the home of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, holding a banner reading “the blood is on your hands.”

There were also smaller protests in the cities of Haifa, Beersheba and Raanana.

Israeli police did not immediately respond to a request about the number of people arrested.

In front of Netanyahu’s house stood Mai Albini Peri, the grandson of Haim Peri, a hostage in Gaza. He held a sign that read, “Rafah, not at the expense of my grandfather.”

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