Middle East crisis live: ‘key elements’ of Gaza ceasefire deal on the table, says Biden, amid push to prevent Rafah offensive

2 weeks ago 21

US president says ‘gaps remain’ in truce agreement and that planned Israeli operation in Rafah should not proceed without a ‘credible plan’

Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s continuing coverage of the Israel-Gaza war.

US president Joe Biden has said the US is working hard to broker another pause in fighting in Gaza, in order to send humanitarian aid and supplies into the region and get hostages out.

“The key elements of the deal are on the table,” Biden said, adding that “there are gaps that remain.”

Joe Biden has added his voice to growing international calls for Israel to drop plans for an all-out military assault on the city of Rafah. Speaking after talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the White House on Monday, the US president said: “A major military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible plan for ensuring the safety and support of more than 1 million people sheltering there.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, congratulated soldiers who mounted a dramatic rescue of two Israeli hostages in Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians have fled seeking shelter. Netanyahu described it as a “perfect operation”. The Israeli military launched airstrikes on nearby buildings to support the rescue, killing at least 67 Palestinians. Hamas later claimed that other Israeli hostages were also killed in the bombardment.

The families of Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har who were held hostage in Gaza for 129 days said they were overjoyed at being reunited with their loved ones. The Israel Defense Forces said it rescued Marman, 60, and Har, 70, from a second-floor apartment in the southern city of Rafah while launching a heavy airstrikes in the area.

Palestinians in Rafah described the panic and despair that has spread across Gaza’s southernmost city after Israel said it would expand its ground offensive into the densely packed area. At least half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is crammed into Rafah, a city that previously housed a fraction of that amount.

A spokesperson for Rishi Sunak said the UK prime minister was “deeply concerned about the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah”. The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, said it was “impossible to see how you can fight a war among these people, there is nowhere for them to go … we are very concerned about the situation and we want Israel to stop and think seriously before it takes any further action.”

The US senate appears on track to approve a long-awaited package of funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The senate voted 66-33 to sweep aside the last procedural hurdle before a vote on passage that could come on Wednesday. The bill would next go to the House. Mike Johnson, the Republican House speaker, said the package lacked border security provisions, calling it “silent on the most pressing issue facing our country”.

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