Israeli Tanks Enter Rafah as Gaza Cease-Fire Talks Resume in Cairo

U.N. officials said Tuesday that Israeli troops had now “choked off” both the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, the two main routes for aid entering Gaza, and the officials warned that the humanitarian crisis in the enclave would worsen.

Egypt’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said that Israel’s seizure of the Rafah crossing was a “dangerous escalation” that threatened the lives of Palestinians sheltering in the city.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s top diplomat, also condemned the Israeli assault.

“The land offensive against Rafah has started again, despite all the requests of the international community, the U.S., European Union member states, everybody asking Netanyahu not to attack Rafah,” he told reporters in Brussels. “I am afraid that this is going to cause again a lot of casualties, civilian casualties.”

Wael Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing, said the closure had prevented 46 injured and sick people from leaving Gaza for medical treatment in Egypt. The patients included people with breast cancer, lymphoma and other ailments, the Gaza health ministry said.

President Biden has urged Mr. Netanyahu to resist launching a full-scale invasion of Rafah, warning that it would be devastating to Palestinian civilians.

Mr. Kirby, the White House spokesman, said on Tuesday that Israel had told the Biden administration that its operation in Rafah was “limited” and “designed to cut off Hamas’s ability to smuggle weapons into Gaza.” Mr. Kirby said that the administration still opposed a full-scale invasion of Rafah.

The Israeli military said its troops had found three tunnel shafts in an area near the Rafah crossing. That claim could not be immediately verified. Israeli and Egyptian officials have said in the past that Gaza’s border with Egypt was a route for smuggling arms into the coastal enclave.

Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he visited troops near Rafah and that the operation there would continue until the last Hamas brigade in the city was destroyed “or until the return of the first hostage to Israel.”

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