US halts bomb shipments to Israel amid ‘concerns’ over Rafah invasion | DAILY MAIL

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US halts bomb shipments to Israel amid ‘concerns’ over Rafah invasion as Hamas warns that new ceasefire talks are the ‘last chance’ to free hostages | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by By David Averre, Originally published in The Daily Mail.

The United States has halted bomb shipments to Israel amid ‘concerns’ over its ally’s invasion of Rafah, the overcrowded city in southern Gaza.

As Israel bombarded the city today where it has launched a ground incursion, talks resumed on Wednesday in Cairo aimed at agreeing the terms of a truce in the seven-month war that was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel.

Hamas has warned Israel that the ongoing round of ceasefire talks is the ‘last chance’ to free its hostages after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week rejected a deal that was accepted by the Palestinian group.

War-weary Palestinians rejoiced in the streets on Monday at news that Hamas had accepted a ceasefire agreement hashed out by Egyptian and Qatari negotiators – only for Israel to dismiss the deal and commence bombing overnight.

Then on Tuesday, after weeks of vowing to launch a ground incursion into Rafah despite international objections, Israeli tanks seized the border crossing that has served as the main conduit for aid into the besieged Palestinian territory.

The White House condemned Israeli’s move to capture the Rafah crossing, which interrupted sorely needed humanitarian deliveries, and paused shipments of bombs after Israel failed to address Washington’s concerns over its Rafah plans.

Now, negotiators and mediators are meeting in Cairo to try and hammer out a final hostage release deal and truce that both Israel and Hamas can accept as the IDF continues its brutal assault of Gaza

A senior Hamas official, requesting anonymity, warned these talks in Cairo would be Israel’s ‘last chance’ to free the scores of hostages still in militants’ hands.

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

It later reported that ‘all parties’ including Israel had agreed to resume talks, with Netanyahu declaring earlier this week he had sent his country’s delegation to the Egyptian capital.

Israel’s close ally and chief military backer the United States said it was hopeful the two sides could ‘close the remaining gaps’.

‘Everybody’s coming to the table,’ US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. ‘That’s not insignificant.’

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

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

Israel’s Rafah operation began hours after Hamas announced late Monday it had accepted a truce proposal – one Israel said was ‘far’ from what it had previously agreed to.

The announcement prompted cheering crowds to take to the streets in Gaza – but Rafah resident Abu Aoun al-Najjar said the ‘indescribable joy’ was short-lived.

‘It turned out to be a bloody night,’ he told reporters, as more Israeli bombardments ‘stole our joy’.

Yesterday morning, Israeli army footage showed tanks taking ‘operational control’ of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing.

Netanyahu described the operation as ‘a very important step’ in denying Hamas ‘a passage that was essential for establishing its reign of terror‘.

Former Israeli intelligence official and regional analyst Avi Melamed told MailOnline: ‘In many ways the loss of the Rafah crossing was a symbolic one for Hamas’s rule of Gaza – it used the crossing to control and profit from imports via taxes/duties and used the crossing to control who could and could not enter or leave Gaza.

‘The significance of last night’s operation should not be underscored. The Israeli military would have needed to coordinate its operation closely with the Egyptian and US militaries to ensure no crossfire during the operation. It highlights the precarious situation Hamas and its leaders find themselves in with very few friendly nations.

‘The Israeli operation also highlights the tightening of the noose around Hamas’ leaders and final bastion in Rafah… Ultimately it is highly likely Israel will continue its intensive operation, ramping up the military pressure on Hamas’s negotiation stance and ultimately on Yahya Sinwar and Hamas’s other Gaza-entrenched leaders.’

But the Rafah operation was roundly condemned by world governments, human rights groups and aid agencies.

UN humanitarian office spokesman Jens Laerke said Israel had also denied his organisation access to both Rafah and Kerem Shalom – another major aid crossing on the border with Israel.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel to ‘immediately’ reopen both crossings, calling the closures ‘especially damaging to an already dire humanitarian situation’.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre offered a similar view, calling the closures ‘unacceptable’.

Hours after the press secretary’s statement, a senior Biden administration official speaking on condition of anonymity revealed the United States had ‘paused one shipment of weapons last week’ after Israel failed to address its concerns over the Rafah incursion, which Washington has vocally opposed.

The shipment had consisted of more than 3,500 heavy-duty bombs, the official said.

It was the first time that Biden had acted on a warning he gave Netanyahu in April – namely that US policy on Gaza would depend on how Israel treated civilians.

Retired US Navy Captain Robert Sanders told MailOnline: ‘Israel is creating a new cadre of potential terrorists in the survivors of Gaza and is all but guaranteeing perpetual warfare.

‘Israel’s posture is sadly morphing from Oct 7 victim into recognition as an international law violating aggressor with a disregard for the genocidal implications of its state actions.’

But Defence Minister Yoav Gallant remained undeterred in his desire to eliminate Hamas, saying 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.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, said the US military had completed construction of a pier off Gaza’s coast to offer an alternative route for badly needed humanitarian aid, but weather conditions mean it is currently unsafe to move the two-part facility into place.

Egypt and Qatar have taken the lead in the truce talks, with Hamas saying Monday it had told officials from both countries of its ‘approval of their proposal regarding a ceasefire’.

Hamas member Khalil al-Hayya told the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel that the proposal involved a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the return of Palestinians displaced by the war and a hostage-prisoner exchange, with the goal of a ‘permanent ceasefire’.

Netanyahu’s office called the proposal ‘far from Israel’s essential demands’, but said the government would still send negotiators to Cairo.

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.

But Netanyahu had repeatedly vowed to send in ground troops regardless of any truce, saying Israel needs to root out remaining Hamas forces.

Aid groups have warned that the coastal ‘humanitarian area’ of Al-Muwasi – where Israel’s military told people to go before it launched its Rafah operation – is unprepared to handle the influx.

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a retaliatory offensive that has so far killed at least 34,789 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry said Tuesday.

Militants also took around 250 people hostage on October 7, of whom Israel estimates 128 remain in Gaza, including 36 who are believed to be dead.

US halts bomb shipments to Israel amid ‘concerns’ over Rafah invasion as Hamas warns that new ceasefire talks are the ‘last chance’ to free hostages | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by By David Averre, Originally published in The Daily Mail.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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