Israeli Air Strikes Kill 13 in Rafah as Hamas Leaders Meet in Egypt for Ceasefire Talks

Escalating violence in Gaza before ceasefire talks, with Israel and Hamas divided on terms. Urgent need for truce to address humanitarian crisis, as US and regional mediators push for breakthrough.

Nitish Verma
New Update
Israeli Air Strikes Kill 13 in Rafah as Hamas Leaders Meet in Egypt for Ceasefire Talks

Israeli Air Strikes Kill 13 in Rafah as Hamas Leaders Meet in Egypt for Ceasefire Talks

Israeli air strikes killed at least 13 people before ceasefire talks were set to begin in Egypt on Monday, just hours before Hamas leaders were set to meet in Egypt to discuss a potential ceasefire agreement with Israel. The strikes hit three houses in Rafah and two others in Gaza City, according to medics.

The attacks came amid an ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas that has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, since it began with Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7, 2023. Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has drawn international outcry, with the U.N. warning of a looming humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Why this matters: The escalating violence and mounting civilian death toll in Gaza emphasize the urgent need for a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. The involvement of regional mediators like Egypt and Qatar, as well as the U.S., in the latest round of talks raises hopes for a potential breakthrough in the nearly seven-month-long conflict.

Hamas officials said a delegation would visit for ceasefire talks led by Khalil Al Hayya, the group's deputy Gaza chief, would discuss a ceasefire proposal handed by Hamas to mediators from Qatar and Egypt, as well as Israel's response. The proposal includes an agreement to release fewer than 40 hostages in exchange for releasing Palestinians held in Israeli jails, and a second phase of a truce with a "period of sustained calm."

However, the two sides remain divided, with Hamas seeking a permanent end to the war and Israel only offering a temporary ceasefire. The issue has also created tensions within the Israeli government, with some ministers insisting on an assault on Rafah while others prioritize securing the release of Israeli hostages.

The United States has urged Israel to refrain from attacking Rafah, citing concerns over potential civilian casualties. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Israel this week, with negotiating a 6-week ceasefire as a top priority. The U.S. is pushing for an arrangement that would allow for more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza and the release of hostages held by both sides.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that an Israeli assault on Rafah could force much of the Palestinian population to flee Gaza, and that only U.S. intervention can prevent such an attack. Egypt also faces the prospect of a mass influx of Palestinians from Gaza into Sinai should Israel strike Hamas commanders in Rafah.

As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to worsen, with the U.N. warning that "famine thresholds in Gaza will be breached within the next six weeks" without a massive influx of food aid, the urgency for a ceasefire agreement grows. The talks in Cairo on Monday between the Hamas leaders and Qatari and Egyptian mediators will focus on Hamas' questions and inquiries about Israel's response to their recent ceasefire proposal, in hopes of finding a path forward to end the conflict.

Key Takeaways

  • Israeli airstrikes killed 13 in Gaza before ceasefire talks in Egypt.
  • Conflict has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.
  • Hamas proposes ceasefire deal with prisoner exchange and truce period.
  • U.S. urges Israel to avoid Rafah assault, seeks 6-week ceasefire.
  • Humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens, UN warns of famine within 6 weeks.