THE Israeli military has said it has established “operational control” over the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip overnight from Monday into Tuesday.

Footage broadcast by Israeli media showed an Israeli flag flying on the Gaza side of the crossing, though the military has refused to comment.

It comes after “targeted strikes” were carried out on eastern Rafah with an Israeli army official saying the vast majority of people located in the evacuation zone have left.

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The crossing, located just south of Gaza City, was taken over by Israeli tanks that are part of an armoured brigade, the Israeli Defence Forces and Palestinian officials said.

Wael Abu Omar, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Crossings Authority, said the crossing – the main entry of humanitarian aid to the strip – was out of service.

“The whole western area (of Rafah) has become a theatre of operations since yesterday,” he said.

“The bombardment has not stopped.”

A statement from the Israel Defense Forces meanwhile said: “The IDF began a precise counterterrorism operation in the eastern Rafah area.

“Following intelligence that indicated that the Rafah crossing in eastern Rafah was being used for terrorist purposes, IDF troops obtained operational control of the Gazan side of the crossing overnight (Monday).”

It added that it had killed around 20 Hamas fighters.

According to news outlet Al Jazeera, the Israeli attack killed at least 20 Palestinians in different air raids that struck residential houses.

Senior UN officials have repeatedly warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah, which had been sheltering around 1.5 million Palestinians.

The latest attack comes after Hamas said it had accepted a ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt and Qatar although Israel said it would not accept the proposal in its current form.

An Israeli official said Hamas had agreed to a “softened” proposal which is “not acceptable to Israel”.

They added that Hamas’ announcement “appears to be a ruse to cast Israel as the side refusing a deal”.

Egypt and Qatar have been mediating months of talks between Hamas and Israel.