Live Updates: Israeli Tanks Enter Rafah and Take Control of Border Crossing

Israel stepped up attacks on Monday in the southern city of Rafah hours after Hamas said it would accept the terms of a cease-fire plan drawn from a proposal by Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said that while the new proposal failed to meet Israel’s demands, the country would still send a working-level delegation to talks in hopes of reaching an acceptable deal. Qatar also said that it would send a delegation for the talks, in Cairo.

As Israeli forces carried out strikes in eastern Rafah, the prime minister’s office said that the war cabinet had decided unanimously that Israel would continue with its military actions in the city to exert pressure on Hamas. The decision, the office said, sought to advance all of Israel’s war aims, including freeing hostages.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that the proposal Hamas was willing to accept included three phases, of 42 days each, and stressed that its main goal was a permanent cease-fire.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political wing, first described Hamas’s new position in a post on the group’s Telegram channel at 7:36 p.m. in Israel. His statement came hours after Israel had ordered people in part of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, to evacuate before a promised offensive there, and a day after Hamas fired rockets near the Kerem Shalom crossing in the border region between Israel and southern Gaza, killing four soldiers.

Ismail Haniyeh in Tehran in March.Credit…Vahid Salemi/Associated Press

Mr. Haniyeh said he had told the Qatari prime minister and the chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service that Hamas had accepted “their proposal.” There was no immediate comment from Egypt.

Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesman, confirmed that Hamas had “issued a response” and that the United States was reviewing it with partners in the region.

Hamas negotiators had left Cairo on Sunday after talks hit an impasse and they failed to reach an agreement with mediators on Israel’s most recent offer.

The main stumbling block in the indirect negotiations mediated by Qatar and Egypt has been the length of the cease-fire. Hamas has demanded a permanent cease-fire, which would in effect end the seven-month war, while Israel wants a temporary halt in fighting that would allow for the exchange of hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners.

Mr. al-Hayya, who has been leading Hamas delegations at in-person talks in Cairo, said the new offer also included a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the return of displaced people to their homes and a “real and serious” swap of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

In its most recent proposal, Israel made some concessions, including agreeing to the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza and reducing the number of hostages it would accept being freed in the initial phase of an agreement.

The Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said at a news briefing on Monday evening: “We examine each response and reply in a very serious matter, and maximize every opportunity in the negotiations to secure the release of the hostages as a core mission.” But he said that at the same time, Israeli forces would “continue operating” in Gaza.

The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of over 100,000 Palestinians from parts of Rafah on Monday morning. Israeli leaders have vowed for months to invade the city in order to root out Hamas forces there, prompting international concern for the safety of the 1.4 million people sheltering there.

Michael Crowley and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

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