5 things to know about the Israel-Hamas War from this week: Rafah, US delays arms, Eurovision, hostage talks, Al Jazeera

The war between Hamas and Israel has now surpassed 218 days. Here are the top stories from this past week.
Eden Golan of Israel enters the stage during the opening ceremony of The Eurovision Song Contest 2024 Grand Final at Malmö Arena on May 11, 2024 in Malmo, Sweden. (Photo by Martin Sylvest Andersen/Getty Images)

The war between Hamas and Israel has now surpassed 218 days. Here are the top stories from this past week.

1. IDF enters east Rafah after deadly Hamas rocket attack

Israeli tanks are seen along the border with the Gaza Strip on May 1, 2024. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images)

The IDF entered eastern Rafah on Monday night, a day after Hamas fired a barrage of mortars at Kerem Shalom, killing four IDF soldiers and wounding several others.

On Monday morning, the IDF had warned it would be entering the area, instructing civilians to evacuate northward to a designated humanitarian zone.

Within hours of entering the southern Gaza city, the IDF succeeded in capturing the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, even raising Israeli flags on the Gazan side of the crossing.

As of Thursday evening, the IDF said it had eliminated about 50 terrorists, found several tunnel shafts, and destroyed Hamas terrorist infrastructure with artillery and airstrikes. The IDF also accused Hamas of using the Rafah crossing to smuggle weapons.

Why it matters: Israel has been warning for months that the IDF would enter Rafah to clear out the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

While Israeli forces have only entered the outskirts of the city, the new operation brings the IDF one step closer to entering the heart of Rafah where over one million Palestinians are sheltering. The move has sparked concern from world leaders, many of whom oppose a large-scale operation in Rafah.

2. U.S. delaying arms shipments to Israel over Rafah concerns

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he boards his plane at an airport in Tel Aviv on May 1, 2024. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. confirmed on Wednesday that a shipment of large bombs that was meant to be sent to Israel has been put on hold due to concerns about a possible large-scale invasion of Rafah.

President Joe Biden warned on Wednesday that he would halt the shipment of at least some bombs and weapons to Israel if a major invasion is launched in Rafah. “Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Biden told CNN.

U.S. officials explained that the commitment to Israel’s security is still “ironclad,” but that they are reconsidering arms supplies to Israel due to the planned Rafah invasion.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby pointed out that Israel is “still getting the vast, vast majority of everything that they need to defend themselves.”

Digging deeper: Until now, the White House has insisted that it will not restrict military aid to Israel. The decision to pause the shipment and Biden’s statements about further limits have led some Israeli leaders to wonder if U.S. support for Israel in the war has become conditional.

On Tuesday, one day before the pause was announced, Biden said: “My commitment to the safety of the Jewish people, the security of Israel, and its right to exist as an independent Jewish people and Israel is ironclad, even when we disagree.”

3. Eden Golan wins fifth place at Eurovision despite anti-Israel protests

Singer Eden Golan representing Israel with the song “Hurricane” performs on stage during the first rehearsal before the second semi-final of the 68th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmo Arena, in Malmo, Sweden, on May 8, 2024. (Photo by Jessica GOW/ TT News/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s Eden Golan came in fifth place at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden on Saturday night, while Switzerland took home the first-place prize.

While Israel did not get many votes from the jury, coming in 12th place overall, the country received 323 points from the audience vote, the second-highest number of votes granted by the public. Israel gave its 12 points to Luxembourg, which was represented by Israeli-born singer Tali Golergant.

A mix of cheers and boos could be heard from the crowd as Golan performed. Meanwhile, some of the artists at the event made direct or indirect references to the war.

Portugal’s singer, Lolanda, had her nails painted with the pattern of a keffiyeh, a headscarf associated with Palestinian nationalism.

After receiving the trophy, Switzerland’s Nemo said that they hoped the contest “continue to stand for peace and dignity for every person.” Before the contest, they signed a statement calling for a ceasefire and the release of the hostages.

Digging deeper: Israel’s participation in Eurovision sparked controversy, with many artists demanding that Israel be banned from the competition due to the war in Gaza.

Israel was required to change the lyrics of its original song submission, “October Rain,” which references the Oct. 7 attack.

Anti-Israel protests were held outside the competition over the past week. Protesters even attacked an Israeli journalist and demanded that he show them his ID to show if he was Jewish or Israeli.

4. Hostage talks falter again

Relatives and supporters of hostages taken captive by Hamas on Oct. 7 hold placards during a demonstration calling for their release, in Tel Aviv on May 9, 2024. (Photo by Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

On Thursday, negotiating teams from Hamas and Israel left talks in Cario aimed at reaching a ceasefire and hostage exchange, without reaching an agreement.

Hamas continues to demand a complete end to the war, while Israel says it cannot agree to end the war until Hamas is destroyed.

At the beginning of the week, mediators expressed optimism that Israel and Hamas were close to a deal, but that optimism was short-lived. In an unexpected turn on Sunday, Hamas declared it had accepted a proposal from the mediators, but it soon became apparent that the proposal Hamas accepted was different from the one Israel had agreed to just days before.

Contradictory reports citing unnamed officials from Egypt, Israel, and the U.S. blamed both Israel and Hamas for the collapse of the talks throughout the week.

Some reports blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “torpedoing” the talks with repeated statements about a pending invasion of Rafah, while others said the talks faltered because of Hamas’s attack on Kerem Shalom.

Why it matters: Israel and Hamas have been attempting for months to reach a ceasefire and hostage release deal, but these efforts have consistently failed. The recent talks in Cairo were regarded as a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement before Israel invades Rafah.

Despite the latest talks faltering, Egypt, Qatar, and the U.S. say they’re still working to get the two sides to agree to a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

5. Israeli government orders closure of local Al Jazeera office

Israeli inspectors and police are seen raiding the Al Jazeera offices in Jerusalem, Israel, on May 5, 2024, after the Israeli communications minister announced the government’s decision to shut down the bureau of the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera television. (Photo by Saeed Qaq/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Israeli government approved the closure of the local branch of the Qatari TV station Al Jazeera last Sunday. 

Israeli officials say Al Jazeera has worked to harm Israel’s national security and spread incitement against Israel. The decision came over a month after the Knesset passed a law that allowed the government to act to close the TV station.

A few hours after the closure order was issued, police raided the station’s offices, confiscating equipment. World leaders expressed concerns that the decision would harm the freedom of the press in Israel.

The order is temporary and will need to be renewed every 45 days.

The Mossad had reportedly asked the government to hold off on the decision so as to not harm ongoing efforts to reach a ceasefire and hostage release deal, since Qatar is one of the mediators. Members of the government denied that the Mossad had made such a request.

Digging deeper: For years, Israeli leaders have called for Al Jazeera’s branch in Israel to be closed due to concerns that the channel was helping Israel’s enemies, especially Hamas, by broadcasting incitement and even sensitive information against Israel.

In November, Israel shut down the local branch of the Lebanese pro-Iranian Al-Mayadeen channel through emergency war regulations but refrained from applying these regulations to Al Jazeera.

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