Saturday , February 24 2024

Netanyahu plan needed for civilian safety in Rafah: Biden


WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden told Israel’s prime minister a military operation in Rafah should not happen without measures to ensure the safety of civilians, the White House has said.

In a call with Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said Israel needed a “credible and executable plan” to protect the more than a million people in the city.

Israel is facing growing international warnings over its planned offensive.

Netanyahu has insisted it will go ahead and a plan is being prepared.

The call between the two leaders comes days after Biden suggested Israel’s military operations in Gaza were “over the top”.

It also follows a raft of Israel’s allies, international organizations and regional powers expressing growing concern at suggestions Israeli troops would enter Rafah – which lies on the border with Egypt and is the only open point of entry for humanitarian aid.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said “over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering in the area”, while Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions” if Rafah was stormed.

The United Nations has said there is nowhere safe to go for the 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering in the city in the far south of the Strip.

Many of the people are living in tents in refugee camps, having already been forced to flee their homes elsewhere in Gaza at least once on the orders of the Israeli military.

Meanwhile, the Strip’s Hamas rulers said there could be “tens of thousands” of casualties, warning that any operation would also undermine talks about a possible release of Israeli hostages held in the strip.

The warnings about an escalation of fighting in Rafah came after Netanyahu ordered his military to prepare to evacuate civilians from the city ahead of an expanded offensive against Hamas.

Israel launched its operations in the Palestinian enclave after more than 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel on 7 October by Hamas gunmen, who also took about 240 people hostage.

On Sunday, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 112 more Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli military over the previous day, bringing the overall death toll to more than 28,100 and more than 67,500 injured.

In their call on Sunday, the White House said Biden “reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there”.

He repeated Israel and the US shared goal of seeing Hamas defeated and ensuring Israel’s long-term security, while he also called for “urgent and specific steps” to increase humanitarian aid to civilians trapped in Gaza.

Negotiators working on a deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza have made “real progress” over the last few weeks, a senior White House official told media.

The official said this deal was the main focus of the call between the Israeli and US leaders, but they also told the news agency that there were still some significant gaps to close. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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