Israel and Hamas should be able to close remaining gaps in Gaza ceasefire talks, US says

White House says Israel told it Rafah operation is limited and not full-scale invasion

An Israeli soldier directs armoured vehicles near the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip. Bloomberg
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The White House on Tuesday said that Israel and Hamas should be able to settle their differences in talks aimed at securing a ceasefire.

It was a rare expression of optimism amid the months-long Israel-Gaza war.

“They should be able to close the remaining gaps and we're going to do everything we can to support that process and achieve that,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“Everybody is coming to the table.”

Mr Kirby said CIA director William Burns would attend the ceasefire talks in Cairo.

US officials have not set out the details of the proposal, but Washington, along with mediators from Qatar and Egypt, have for weeks been pushing for a six-week ceasefire in Gaza, during which hostages held by Hamas would be released in exchange for Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

During the ceasefire, much-needed humanitarian aid would be funnelled into Gaza, Israeli forces would withdraw gradually and displaced Palestinians would be able to return home.

But on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the army would proceed with a long-threatened ground operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

Displaced Gazans react to Hamas ceasefire agreement – video

Displaced Gazans react to Hamas ceasefire agreement

Displaced Gazans react to Hamas ceasefire agreement

About 100,000 Palestinians were ordered to evacuate the area and on Tuesday, Israel sent tanks into Rafah, seizing control of the border crossing with Egypt.

The move has caused concern that an imminent famine could worsen, as the Rafah crossing – the main passage for aid into Gaza – has been closed.

The second major entry, the Karam Abu Salem crossing, has been closed for days.

US President Joe Biden's administration has warned againsta major operation in Rafah, as it would endanger the about 1.5 million Palestinians who have been sheltering there after fleeing from fighting elsewhere.

Mr Kirby said that Israel had told the US that its military operation in Rafah would be limited in time, scale and scope, and would be aimed at stopping weapons and funds being smuggled to Hamas.

“We're going to be monitoring this situation very, very closely to see how it unfolds,” he said.

“Our views on Rafah remain the same.”

Israel launched an unprecedented military offensive in Gaza on October 7, after Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 and taking scores hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

About 34,800 Palestinians have been killed in the seven months since, according to local health authorities, and much of the coastal enclave has been reduced to rubble.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 8:55 PM