Israel says willing to open Rafah crossing in Gaza without Hamas presence

Israel says willing to open Rafah crossing in Gaza without Hamas presence

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets US envoy Brett McGurk

By Abdelraouf Arnaout

JERUSALEM (AA) – Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Wednesday that Tel Aviv is willing to open the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, but without allowing Hamas to return to the area.

A Defense Ministry statement detailed a meeting between Gallant and US envoy Brett McGurk to discuss current efforts to reach a Gaza cease-fire and prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas.

According to the statement, the two sides discussed the “importance of seizing the opportunity to reach an agreement on the return of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.”

“Israel wants to see the Rafah crossing reopened, but will not tolerate the return of Hamas to the area,” Gallant said, without providing further details.

In early May, the Israeli army seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt as part of a wide-scale military operation, which resulted in civilian casualties and the suspension of humanitarian aid deliveries.

“A solution is required that will stop smuggling attempts and will cut off potential supply for Hamas, and will enable the withdrawal of IDF (army) troops from the corridor, as part of a framework for the release of hostages,” Gallant said.

Israel, flouting a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire, has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Palestinian group Hamas.

Nearly 38,300 Palestinians have since been killed, mostly women and children, and over 88,200 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Nine months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lie in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water, and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered it to immediately halt its military operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

*Writing by Mohammad Sio

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