Fri 19 Apr 2024 6:22 pm - Jerusalem Time

The ambiguity of the American position regarding Israel’s invasion of the city of Rafah

Senior US officials raised concerns with Israeli officials about Israel's plans for a possible invasion of the besieged city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a devastating Israeli war since October 7, 2023, on Thursday, as the two sides also discussed the Iranian drone and missile strike on Israel in a virtual meeting from the House. the White.

The White House said that representatives of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to "take these concerns into account" when undertaking any military action in Rafah, amid growing concerns about the risk of a regional war in the Middle East.

In response to a question about whether President Biden’s administration had given the green light to Israel in Thursday’s virtual meeting in exchange for not attacking Iran, the US State Department’s deputy spokesman, Vedant Patel, said Thursday: “We have been absolutely clear that any kind of operation in Rafah requires some very serious planning, because of the three main components that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has seriously outlined before, which are: first, and foremost, of course, there are over a million people who have taken refuge in Rafah; second, the area itself continues to be an important conduit for humanitarian aid "It is an important channel for the safe departure of foreign nationals, so any type of operation in Rafah will require serious planning, and we are strongly opposed to anything that is done without taking these different pieces into account when considering how to conduct a military operation in Rafah."

Patel refused to reveal whether Washington had approved an Israeli invasion of the city of Rafah, saying only, “The devil is in the details and I will not go into the details; it will require the kind of operation we are talking about in Rafah. If it reflects these three very serious concerns that we have - then I will not.” Previewing or going into hypotheticals, but these are some serious areas of concern that our continued engagement with our partners in Israel continues to be when it comes to Rafah, these three things have to be addressed and you have to have a plan for them.

It is noteworthy that President Joe Biden urged Israel not to launch a large-scale attack in Rafah to avoid more casualties among Palestinian civilians in Gaza, where Palestinian health authorities say that more than 33,000 people have been killed in the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip since October 7. .

Thursday's talks were a follow-up to a similar meeting held on April 1. That session concluded with high tensions and the two sides were far apart in their positions, according to people familiar with the matter.

The US administration says that it is pressuring Israel not to launch a large-scale attack in Rafah that would increase the number of civilian deaths, and advises it, instead, to take a more targeted approach.

American officials reportedly told the Israeli side, in the first meeting (4/1/2024), that their planning for Rafah was not sufficient to evacuate and protect more than a million Palestinian civilians who took refuge there.

A White House statement about Thursday's meeting said that the Rafah crossing was the focus of discussions regarding Iran.

The statement said, "The two sides agreed on the common goal of seeing the defeat of Hamas in Rafah. The American participants expressed their concern about the different courses of action in Rafah." He added that they agreed to hold further follow-up discussions among the experts and would meet again soon.

The White House said the discussion began in a small group "to discuss the Iranian attack on Israel last Saturday, and collective efforts to strengthen Israel's defense through advanced capabilities as well as cooperation with a broad coalition of military partners."

The White House said that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who headed the US delegation, also briefed the Israelis on the new sanctions and other measures against Iran in coordination with the G7 governments.

The meeting was held as Israel threatens to attack Iranian targets in response to Iran's launch of a barrage of drones and ballistic missiles last weekend against Israel.

A US official said that Washington is trying to discourage the Israelis from launching retaliatory strikes to avoid inflaming the already tense situation.

The Iranian attack, the first ever on Israeli territory, was in response to an Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1. The United States shot down the vast majority of missiles and drones, and there were no deaths, but Israel says it must take action to maintain the credibility of its means of deterrence in the region.


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The ambiguity of the American position regarding Israel’s invasion of the city of Rafah