Prospects for ceasefire dim as Israel rejects calls to spare Rafah

Prospects for an Israel-Hamas ceasefire dimmed Sunday after the United States signalled it would veto the latest push for a U.N. Security Council resolution and mediator Qatar acknowledged that truce talks on the other diplomatic front have hit an impasse.

The languishing efforts to pause the four-month-old war come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Saturday to reject international appeals to spare Gaza's southernmost city Rafah, where an estimated 1.5 million people have sought refuge.

Israel's relentless campaign to root out every Hamas battalion has edged closer to the city, with overnight attacks killing at least 10 Gazans there and in central Gaza's Deir al-Balah, according to a tally by official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

The Gaza war began with Hamas's October 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also took about 250 people hostage, 130 of whom are still in Gaza, including 30 who are presumed dead, according to Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory assault on Gaza has killed at least 28,858 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

Neighbouring Egypt has grown increasingly wary that an Israeli invasion of Rafah could force the Gazans trapped there across the border.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday reiterated Egypt's opposition to any forced displacement into the Sinai desert.

In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, both leaders agreed instead on the "necessity of the swift advancement of a ceasefire," according to a summary.

Even if a temporary truce deal is struck at the talks in...

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