The United States suspended the delivery of bombs last week after Israel’s failure to respond to Washington’s “concerns” over a possible military offensive in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, it said Tuesday (May 7). a senior American official.

“We suspended the delivery of a shipment of weapons last week. It consists of 1,800 bombs of 2,000 pounds [907 kg] and 1,700 bombs of 500 pounds [226 kg],” detailed this senior official of the Joe Biden administration on condition of anonymity during an interview with journalists from several media including Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and the Washington Post. “We have not made a final decision on how to proceed with this shipment,” the official added.

The Israeli army continued to shell the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, where it took control of the strategic crossing with Egypt. Early Wednesday, witnesses reported strikes in different areas of the Palestinian territory, notably in the city of Gaza, in the north, where the Al-Ahli hospital announced the death of seven members of the same family in a bombardment air.

The Israeli army deployed tanks on Tuesday in Rafah (south), took control of the border crossing with Egypt and closed the two main access points for humanitarian aid (Rafah and Kerem Shalom), a measure considered ” unacceptable” by the United States.

These developments come as Egyptian, Qatari and American mediators hold discussions in Cairo with a view to a ceasefire after seven months of war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

Return to the negotiating table

“All parties agree to return to the negotiating table” with a view to a truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, the Egyptian media outlet Al-Qahera News, close to the intelligence services, said on Tuesday.

Israel and Hamas “should be able to fill the gaps that remain” to conclude a ceasefire agreement currently under discussion, said White House spokesperson John Kirby, saying he hoped a “very soon” deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had instructed the Israeli delegation in Cairo to “continue to be firm on the conditions necessary for the release” of the hostages and “essential” to Israel’s security.

“This could be the last chance [for Israel] to recover the captives (…) alive,” a senior Hamas official who requested anonymity told Agence France-Presse.

According to the number two of the political branch of Hamas in Gaza, Khalil Al-Hayya, the proposal accepted by his movement includes three phases, each lasting forty-two days, and includes an Israeli withdrawal from the territory, the return of displaced persons and an exchange of hostages held in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners, with the aim of a “permanent ceasefire”.

Israel has so far opposed a permanent ceasefire until Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, has been “defeated”. Israeli army carries out ‘counterterrorism’ operation in ‘specific areas’ of eastern Rafah, following call to evacuate tens of thousands of families from the same sector of the city that is home to 1.4 million Palestinians , according to the UN.

The Americans want an alternative to an offensive in Rafah

This evacuation was announced in anticipation of a ground offensive promised by Benjamin Netanyahu to eliminate the last battalions of Hamas, but also to “exert military pressure” on the Islamist movement in order to obtain a possible agreement that meets “Israeli demands”. . His defense minister, Yoav Gallant, also warned on Tuesday that the army was ready to “intensify” its operations “across the entire Strip” of Gaza if there was no progress on the liberation of the hostages. The United States, the United Nations and the European Union have called on Israel not to carry out its threatened offensive in Rafah.

Israeli and U.S. officials have discussed alternatives, but “those discussions are ongoing and have not fully addressed our concerns,” the senior Biden administration official said. “As Israeli leaders appeared to move closer to a decision on such an operation, we began to carefully examine proposals to transfer specific weapons to Israel that could be used at Rafah. It started in April,” the senior U.S. official said.

He added that Washington was “particularly focused” on the use of the heaviest 2,000-pound bombs “and the impact they could have in dense urban environments like we have seen in other parts of Gaza “.

Fermeture des points de passage de Rafah et Kerem Shalom

The UN announced on Tuesday that access from Egypt to the Rafah crossing point, the main entry point for humanitarian aid, vital for the population of Gaza, was prohibited by the army. In Egypt, “hundreds of trucks loaded with fuel and humanitarian aid are blocked”, according to Egyptian sources, after the closure of the Rafah crossing and that of Kerem Shalom, between Israel and Gaza, targeted by fire.

The UN also said it only had one day of fuel reserves left for humanitarian operations in Gaza, with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging Israel to “immediately” reopen the two crossing points (Rafah and Kerem Shalom). ) and to “stop the escalation.”

The Israeli army reported 18 rocket attacks on Tuesday from Rafah towards southern Israel, including some towards the Kerem Shalom crossing, which it said “prevented” the entry of humanitarian aid into the territory.

According to Washington, Kerem Shalom must reopen on Wednesday and the construction of the artificial port off the coast of the Gaza Strip is now complete, which should facilitate the delivery, by sea, of humanitarian aid, a key issue since the start of the war.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, more than 34,000 people have been killed by Israeli bombardments on Gaza, according to the Health Ministry of Hamas.