Israel has initiated a significant military offensive in Rafah, Gaza’s southern city. The offensive is marked by the seizure of a crucial border crossing and the cutting off of aid.

The Israeli government has characterised this operation as the first phase in its campaign targeting Palestinian resistance group Hamas. This offensive was launched despite Hamas’s acceptance of a ceasefire proposal mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

If successful, this truce would mark the first substantial pause in hostilities since a week-long ceasefire in November. Previous negotiations faltered over Hamas’ insistence on a permanent resolution to the conflict before releasing additional hostages, while Israel advocated for a temporary cessation of hostilities.

Hamas accused Israel of obstructing peace efforts and increasing tensions in the region.

White House National Security Adviser John Kirby expressed optimism about bridging the gaps between Israel and Hamas based on the proposed ceasefire. Further negotiations are expected to stretch over days or weeks. The proposed ceasefire plan outlines prisoner exchanges and Israeli withdrawals from Gaza.

United States cautioned Israel against its major operation in Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns. Israel maintained that its operation in Rafah is limited in scope. The operation has halted the flow of humanitarian assistance through the Rafah crossing into Gaza where over 2.5 million Palestinians are facing starvation due to the ongoing Israeli blockade of food aid into the occupied enclave.

Aid officials warn of an imminent crisis as fuel reserves are rapidly depleting, with only enough to last for a day. This threatens the functioning of facilities such as hospitals.

In a bid to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, the US military has completed the construction of a Gaza aid pier, intended to boost aid deliveries. However, deployment has been delayed due to unsafe weather conditions. The construction of the pier cost at least $320 million.

Amid the ongoing attacks in Gaza, Israel, which has been accused of using starvation as a weapon of war, has closed the Kerem Shalom border post, another crucial access point for aid.

Rafah crossing, the sole exit point for Palestinians seeking medical treatment not available in Gaza, now stands inaccessible due to Israel’s military offensive.

The Israeli military directed civilians in eastern Rafah neighbourhoods to head to the expanded humanitarian zone in al-Mawasi and Khan Younis for their safety. Thousands have fled Rafah, seeking refuge in designated locations.

Despite Israeli designations for displaced Palestinians, the lack of basic facilities worsened the suffering of civilians. UN-supported bakeries face suspension without fuel and flour. Aid agencies have expressed concerns about inadequate accommodations and resources at these sites.

UN Secretary-General warned that the potential consequences of a full-scale invasion of Rafah by Israeli forces are “a strategic mistake, a political calamity, and a humanitarian nightmare.”

Human Rights Watch condemned Israel’s blockade of life-saving aid, warning that with each passing day of restricted access, more Palestinians are at risk of dying.

The Biden administration will miss the 8 May deadline for reporting to Congress on Israel’s utilisation of US-supplied weapons during the recent conflict in Gaza. This delay comes despite a National Security Memorandum (NSM-20) issued in February, which mandated the State Department to submit a report assessing whether Israel’s use of American arms violates international humanitarian law.

Reports say the administration intends to delay the report, citing the need for additional time to conduct a thorough assessment. Last month, State Department bureaus raised concerns over Israeli non-compliance with international humanitarian law during the Gaza conflict.

Hundreds of protestors gathered in Union Square and in front of the New York Public Library, marching across the city to demand an end to the war and potential incursion in Rafah, southern Gaza. Chants echoing through the streets include “Israel bombs, US pays, how many kids have you killed today?”. At least seven protesters were arrested.

Gaza health ministry reports that 54 Palestinians were killed and 96 were wounded in Israeli strikes over the past 24 hours alone.

In its ongoing war on Gaza which began on 7 October, Israel has killed at least 34,789 Palestinians, mainly women and children, and wounded 78,204 others.