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Israel agrees to send officials to US to discuss Rafah invasion plans

The White House wants Israel to consider options to fight Hamas that don't require a ground invasion in the city.
Israel agrees to send officials to US to discuss Rafah invasion plans
Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 18, 2024

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday the country would send officials to the U.S. as it seeks to coordinate an invasion of the city of Rafah in Gaza.

The city is currently shelter to some 1.5 million displaced Palestinians, who have moved there to avoid violence in the Israel-Hamas war.

Netanyahu called President Joe Biden on Monday. Senior administration officials said President Biden told Netanyahu not to move forward with Israel's plans for Rafah.

"The president has rejected, and did again today, the straw man that raising questions about Rafah is the same as raising questions about defeating Hamas," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters. "That’s just nonsense. Our position is that Hamas should not be allowed a safe haven in Rafah or anywhere else, but a major ground operation there would be a mistake. It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza and further isolate Israel internationally."

The White House says it won't support operations in Rafah unless Israel shows it has a plan to guarantee the safety of Palestinian civilians there.

During the call, the White House said, Netanyahu agreed to send planning and intelligence officials to the U.S. to discuss Israel's intent for Rafah, and to identify alternative strategies that would address the threat from Hamas without resorting to a ground invasion.

SEE MORE: UN report says 'famine is imminent' in northern Gaza

Some U.S. officials have expressed new frustration with Israel's approach in recent days. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer called for new elections in Israel last week, saying Netanyahu was "a major obstacle to peace."

Netanyahu has called Schumer's statement "irresponsible."

In Gaza, the U.N. food agency says a famine is "imminent" due to the ongoing fighting and obstruction of aid delivery.

The U.N. says in northern Gaza, 70% of the population faces "catastrophic hunger."

The World Food Program warned in its latest report that if a ground invasion in Rafah takes place, it could tip half of Gaza's population — some 1.1 million people — into the same catastrophic conditions.

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