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Israel closes the Kerem Shalom border crossing as rockets are fired from Gaza

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Israel closes the Kerem Shalom border crossing as rockets are fired from Gaza

Israel has closed the Kerem Shalom border with the Gaza Strip after ten rockets were fired, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said.

At least ten people were injured in the Hamas attack, Israeli media report.

The crossing is one of the few routes to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The attack comes as mediators in Egypt hold talks to broker a ceasefire – and release Israeli hostages. Israel has said it will not accept Hamas’ demands to end the war in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the proposed deal would keep Hamas in control of Gaza, which would pose a threat to Israel.

Hamas sent a delegation to Cairo on Saturday.

The main sticking point appears to be whether the ceasefire will be permanent – ​​as Hamas insists – or not.

The wording discussed during the Cairo talks is believed to include a 40-day pause in fighting while hostages are released, and the release of some Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons.

An adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the group was viewing the latest proposal with “complete seriousness.” But he reiterated demands that any deal must explicitly include an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a complete end to the war.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said: “The State of Israel cannot accept this [Hamas’s demands]are we not prepared to accept a situation in which the Hamas brigades emerge from their bunkers, retake control of Gaza, rebuild their military infrastructure and return to threatening Israel’s citizens in the settlements surrounding the southern mountains, in all parts of the country. of the country.”

“This will be a terrible defeat for the State of Israel,” he added.

The war began after waves of Hamas gunmen crossed the Gaza border into Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages. The group is banned as a terrorist organization by many Western countries.

During the subsequent Israeli military campaign in Gaza, more than 34,600 Palestinians were killed and more than 77,900 injured, according to figures from the Hamas-led health ministry in the territory.

Netanyahu has faced pressure from his far-right coalition to press ahead with the long-promised offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where an estimated 1.4 million people have sought shelter after fighting in the northern and central parts had fled the Gaza Strip. .

The US – Israel’s closest diplomatic and military ally – has been reluctant to support a new offensive that could cause significant civilian casualties, and has pushed for a plan to protect displaced Palestinians first.

The Israeli government is also facing increasing pressure at home. Thousands of Israelis gathered Saturday evening calling for a deal to bring hostages home.

Protesters in Tel Aviv chanted “war is not sacred, life is”, with some accusing Mr Netanyahu of seeking to prolong the conflict in Gaza.

Of the 252 hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, 128 are still missing – and among them at least 34 are presumed dead.

Ceasefire talks have been going on for months without a breakthrough, and there has been no lull in fighting or the release of hostages since late November.

There have been times when a new agreement seemed imminent, only to fail before it was signed.

A source familiar with this latest round of talks told the BBC that negotiations were still complex and that any breakthrough could take several days.

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