Israel Seizes Crossing, Strikes Gaza

Israel Seizes Crossing, Strikes Gaza
Israel Seizes Crossing, Strikes Gaza

Israel struck targets in the Gaza Strip after seizing the main border crossing with Egypt, where negotiators were working to make good on their "last chance" to cement a ceasefire deal.

After weeks of vowing to launch a ground incursion into the border city of Rafah despite international objections, Israeli tanks moved, capturing the crossing that has served as the main conduit for aid into the besieged Palestinian territory.

The push into the southern city, which is packed with displaced civilians, came as negotiators and mediators met in Cairo to try and hammer out a hostage release deal and truce in the seven-month war between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

A senior Hamas official, requesting anonymity, warned this would be Israel's "last chance" to free the scores of hostages still in militants' hands.

Egypt's state-linked Al-Qahera News reported that mediators from Qatar, the United States and Egypt were meeting with a Hamas delegation.

Despite the Cairo talks, witnesses and a local hospital reported Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip, including around Rafah.

Israel Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel might "deepen" its Gaza operation if negotiations failed to bring the hostages home.

"This operation will continue until we eliminate Hamas in the Rafah area and the entire Gaza Strip, or until the first hostage returns," he said in a statement.

One strike on an apartment in devastated Gaza City killed seven members of the same family and wounded several other people, the Al-Ahli hospital said.

Israel's Rafah operation began hours after Hamas announced it had accepted a truce proposal -- one Israel said was "far" from what it had previously agreed to.

Israeli army footage showed tanks taking "operational control" of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing.

International alarm has been building about the consequences of an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah, where the United Nations says 1.4 million people are sheltering.