Israeli army announces control of Palestinian side of Rafah crossing

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The Israeli military said on Tuesday it had taken operational control of the Palestinian side of Gaza's southern Rafah Crossing, which borders Egypt and has been pivotal for the delivery of aid and exit of injured people in the Gaza war.

The military said forces were scanning the area in the morning after launching a ground and air operation in part of eastern Rafah on Monday night, amid diplomatic efforts abroad to achieve a new truce.

The Gaza Crossings Authority said in a statement that Israel's takeover was a "death sentence" against Gazans, particularly the ill and injured.

Throughout the seven-month war, Rafah, the only crossing not run by Israel, has been the main lifeline to the outside world for Gaza's 2.3 million Palestinians, allowing humanitarian supplies in and transport of patients out during severe shortages and destruction of healthcare facilities.

The Israeli military said a limited operation in Rafah was meant to kill fighters and dismantle infrastructure used by Hamas.

Israel's closest ally the United States has advised against an assault in Rafah, the last refuge for around half of Gaza's population.

Palestinian health officials said Israeli tanks and planes pounded several areas in Rafah overnight, killing 20 Palestinians and wounding several others in hits on at least four houses.

Residents said Israel had dropped new leaflets on Tuesday, again warning people to leave areas in eastern Rafah.

Israeli tanks also shelled eastern areas of Beit Lahiya, Jabalia, and Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, residents said.

The Israeli military said most people and some international organisations had evacuated the area of eastern Rafah where it was operating. It said it killed some 20 fighters and found three tunnel shafts.

A separate, Israeli-controlled crossing nearby, Kerem Shalom, was closed on Tuesday for security reasons and will reopen once the security situation allows, the military said.

Israel has killed  34,789 Palestinians in its air, ground and sea assault on Gaza, according to Gaza health officials. The UN has said famine is underway in northern Gaza and is making its way to the south.

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