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President Biden pushed back against a planned military operation in the southern Gaza town of Rafah during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling the Israeli leader that “a military operation in Rafah should not have place without a credible and enforceable plan to ensure safety.” and the support provided to the more than a million people who have found refuge there. »
On a call with reporters, a senior administration official said there were now 1.3 million people in Rafah in severe humanitarian needs and nowhere to go. They found refuge there after fleeing fighting in other parts of Gaza.
This is the first time that Biden has publicly warned Israel against its planned operation in Rafah. Other administration officials have said Israel has an obligation to ensure the safety of civilians and, as Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told NPR, that under current conditions, the military operation planned by Israel in Rafah “cannot take place”.
Israel plans to step up its military operations in Rafah as it expands its targeting of Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in response to last October's attack on Israel that killed 1,400 people. In response, Israel killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians. Additionally, Israel estimates that 103 hostages are still being held alive in Gaza. Last week, Biden called the Israeli response to Gaza “aon top“.
The official said Israeli officials had told their U.S. counterparts that “they would not consider an operation [in Rafah] without being able to get the civilians out of there. »
“The president and the prime minister had an in-depth exchange on this, a good exchange on this,” the official said.
The senior administration official said most of the 45-minute call between Biden and Netanyahu was devoted to the need to continue promoting a possible hostage deal that would see Hamas release the remaining hostages in exchange of a prolonged break in fighting.
Negotiators from Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the United States are working on a proposal that would see a cessation of hostilities in exchange for the release of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas in the October attack.
The official said that while there is a framework proposal “pretty much… now in place… there are certainly gaps that need to be filled. Some of them are significant.” But the official said there had been “real progress” on the issue in recent weeks.
The remarks come days after Netanyahu rejected a Hamas-proposed ceasefire plan to end the Gaza war, calling it “delusional” because it would have left Hamas in power in the Gaza Strip. at the end of the gradual truce.