Israel seizes key Gaza border, launches assault on Rafah – Newstrends
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Israel seizes key Gaza border, launches assault on Rafah

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Israeli tanks entering the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on May 7, 2024 [Israeli army via AFP]

Israel seizes key Gaza border, launches assault on Rafah

Israeli forces have seized control of Gaza’s Rafah border crossing, cutting off a vital route for humanitarian aid and potential sanctuary for civilians from a building offensive.

The Israeli military said on Tuesday that it had seized “operational control” of the Gaza side of the border post, which links the besieged enclave with Egypt. The closure of the crucial passage and positioning of tanks in the centre of Rafah is seen as a demonstration of Israel’s determination to press on with an assault on the southern city despite ongoing truce talks.

The 401st Brigade entered the Rafah crossing early on Tuesday, the Israeli military said, closing a route vital for the aid entering Gaza and any civilians able to flee the fighting to Egypt.

The military claimed that the crossing was “being used for terrorist purposes”, alleging that Hamas’s mortar attack on Sunday on the Karem Abu Salem crossing, known as Kerem Shalom to Israelis, which remains closed, was launched from the vicinity. However, it has not so far provided evidence.

The operation came amid an overnight assault on eastern parts of the city. Warplanes pounded residential homes, killing at least 12 people.

Israel’s military said in a statement it had struck numerous Hamas targets in eastern Rafah, killing about 20 fighters.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Crossings Authority acknowledged to The Associated Press news agency that Israeli forces had seized the crossing and closed it for the time being.

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“It’s been a very difficult night,” reported Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud from Rafah. “It’s been very violent, very bloody and full of destruction.”

The assault comes despite Hamas having said on Monday that it had agreed with the terms of a truce deal hammered out by mediators.

However, pressed by hardline nationalist coalition partners who have demanded a full offensive on Rafah, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears set to press on regardless.

Trapped

Tareq Abu Azzoum reported from Rafah that the Israeli military carried out an incursion on the eastern side of Rafah, during which there was a heavy exchange of fire with Hamas fighters amid an intense bombing campaign, with the main objective of seizing control of the crossing.

The Israeli control of the border post “is devastating because … Palestinians will no longer be able to leave the territory”, he said.

Despite urgent warnings from its closest allies that an offensive on the city risks huge numbers of civilian casualties, Israel insists that its plans will allow it to clear Rafah and press on to attack the Hamas command and fighters there.

“The Rafah offensive has started again, in spite of all the requests of the international community, the US, the European Union member states, everybody asking Netanyahu not to attack,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, told journalists on Tuesday. “I am afraid that this is going to cause again a lot of casualties, civilian casualties. Whatever they say,” he said, adding, “there are no safe zones in Gaza.”

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Israeli forces whipped up panic on Monday as they ordered 1.4 million or so Palestinians in Rafah – most of whom are displaced following previous instructions from the Israeli military – to evacuate.

The Israeli army reiterated on Tuesday that it has “encouraged” displaced people and international humanitarian organisations operating in eastern Rafah to “temporarily evacuate”.

However, people sheltering in Rafah, amid poor conditions with little shelter, food, or medicine, have few places to go.

The closure of the border crossing only threatens to worsen those shortages and trap more people close to the fighting.

Sources from three humanitarian relief agencies told the Reuters news agency that aid shipments had been halted due to the closure of the crossing.

The latest Israeli operation sees them being pushed towards al-Mawasi on the coast, where the military says it has set up field hospitals, tents, and medical supplies.

“The Israeli military is … strategically cutting off the Gaza Strip and sealing it off from the region,” suggested Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud.

“With the Israeli military presence there right now, we can safely say that we’re looking at a very difficult situation in terms of getting humanitarian aid into Gaza,” he said.

“At the same time, when we look at the location of the Rafah crossing, at almost the centre of the city, that indicates that we’re very close to a full invasion of Rafah.”

Israel seizes key Gaza border, launches assault on Rafah

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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Stage collapse in Mexico political campaign rally kills nine

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Stage collapse in Mexico political campaign rally kills nine

A stage has collapsed in heavy winds at a political campaign rally in northern Mexico.

The unforseen incident killed at least nine people, including a child, and injured 121, the governor of Nuevo Leon State said on Thursday.

The collapse occurred during an event Wednesday evening attended by presidential long-shot candidate Jorge Álvarez Máynez, who ran to escape. Videos of the collapse on social media showed people screaming, running away, and climbing out from under metal polls.

The victims “will not be alone in this tragedy,” Máynez told reporters Wednesday night, adding that he had suspended upcoming campaign events.

Afterward, soldiers, police, and other officials roamed the grounds of the park where the event took place, while many nearby sat stunned and haunted by the tragedy.

In a video message, Nuevo Leon Gov. Samuel Garcia, a leading member of Máynez’s Citizens Movement party, said 94 of the injured were treated and released, but 27 remained hospitalized. State health authorities said a lot of the injuries involved skull fractures. Garcia said three victims were undergoing surgery and appeared to be in critical condition.

Garcia said the accident occurred “in a matter of seconds.”

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said most of the injured were women. He absolved Máynez’s Citizens Movement party — widely viewed as an implicit ally of López Obrador’s Morena party — of blame even before investigations were carried out.

“We know that they are not to blame,” the president said Thursday.

Condolences poured in from across Mexico, including from the other two presidential candidates.

Máynez wrote in his social media accounts that he went to a hospital after the accident in the wealthy suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia, near the city of Monterrey. He said he was in good condition.

“The only important thing at this point is to care for the victims of the accident,” he wrote.

Videos of the accident showed Máynez waving his arm as the crowd chanted his name. But then he looked up to see a giant screen and metal structure toppling towards him. He ran rapidly towards the back of the stage to avoid the falling structure, which appeared to consist of relatively light framework pieces as well as what appeared to be a screen with the party’s logo and theatre-style lights.

Máynez has been running third in the polls in the presidential race, trailing both front-runner Claudia Sheinbaum of the ruling Morena Party and opposition coalition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez. Both sent their condolences, and Sheinbaum cancelled a campaign event in nearby Monterrey the next day “in solidarity” with the victims and their loved ones.

“My condolences and prayers are with the families of the dead, and my wishes for a speedy recovery to all those injured,” wrote Gálvez in a social media post.

The accident happened at the height of campaign season, with many events held this week and next in anticipation of the June 2 presidential, state, and municipal elections.

The campaign had so far been plagued by the killings of about two dozen candidates for local offices.

Stage collapse in Mexico political campaign rally kills nine

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Norway, Ireland, Spain to recognise Palestinian State May 28

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Norway, Ireland, Spain to recognise Palestinian State May 28

Norway, Ireland and Spain said Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state, a historic but largely symbolic move that further deepens Israel’s isolation more than seven months into its grinding war against Hamas in Gaza. Israel immediately denounced the decisions and recalled its ambassadors to the three countries.

Palestinians welcomed the announcements as an affirmation of their decades-long quest for statehood in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — territories Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war and still controls.

While some 140 countries — more than two-thirds of the United Nations — recognize a Palestinian state, Wednesday’s cascade of announcements could build momentum at a time when even close allies of Israel have piled on criticism for its conduct in Gaza.

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It was the second blow to Israel’s international reputation this week after the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said he would seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister. The International Court of Justice is also considering allegations of genocide that Israel has strenuously denied.

Israel recalled its ambassadors to the three countries and summoned their envoys, accusing the Europeans of rewarding the militant Hamas group for its Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the European ambassadors would watch grisly video footage of the attack.

Norway, Ireland, Spain to recognise Palestinian State May 28

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Israel denounces ICC actions, seeks global allies support

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel denounces ICC actions, seeks global allies support

Israel has called on “nations of the civilised world” to refuse to comply with any International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrants issued against its leaders.

Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, announced on Monday that his office had applied to a pre-trial panel for arrest warrants for three senior Hamas officials. Khan also stated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant would be sought for arrest for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the Hamas attack on October 7 and the ensuing seven-month war in Gaza.

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The announcement sparked outrage among Israeli officials, the public, and the country’s allies. In an official response on Tuesday, Israeli government spokesperson Tal Heinrich said, “We call on the nations of the civilised, free world – nations who despise terrorists and anyone who supports them – to stand by Israel. You should outright condemn this step.”

Heinrich continued, “Make sure the ICC understands where you stand. Oppose the prosecutor’s decision and declare that, even if warrants are issued, you do not intend to enforce them. Because this is not about our leaders. It’s about our survival.”

The ICC prosecutor emphasized that while Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas, this does not “absolve Israel or any state of its obligation to comply with international humanitarian law.”

Israel denounces ICC actions, seeks global allies support

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