Saturday , June 22 2024

US again warns Israel against Rafah offensive


WASHINGTON/ JERUSALEM: US officials have again raised concerns with their Israeli counterparts about Israel’s plans for military operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The White House said representatives of Israel’s prime minister had agreed “to take these concerns into account”.

The US has repeatedly urged Israel not to launch a major offensive in Rafah to avoid more civilian casualties in Gaza.

Separately, the US vetoed a UN resolution to grant full member status to a State of Palestine.

In another development, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant to “discuss regional threats and Iran’s destabilizing actions in the Middle East”.

They also discussed “the importance of increasing and sustaining the flow of humanitarian aid to Gazan civilians, including via the new route from Ashdod Port in Israel”.

The Israeli military says it has struck dozens of targets in Gaza, a day after widespread Israeli bombing of the central part of the strip as well as Gaza City in the north.

Qatar which has played a major mediating role in truce talks, said earlier that ceasefire negotiations had stalled.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently vowed to carry out an offensive in Rafah where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering – as a next step in military actions against Hamas.

The US, Israel’s closest ally, has been pressing Israel not to conduct a broad offensive in Rafah but to instead take a more targeted approach.

The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas-led gunmen carried out an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and taking 253 others back to Gaza as hostages.

At least 33,970 people have been killed in Gaza since then, the majority of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry, during Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas and release hostages.

A White House readout of Thursday’s meeting said Rafah was the focus of discussions along with Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile strike on Israel last week.

“The two sides agreed on the shared objective to see Hamas defeated in Rafah. US participants expressed concerns with various courses of action in Rafah,” the statement said.

It said they had agreed to have follow-up discussions between experts and would meet again soon.

According to US news site Axios, US officials have “flatly denied” reports that the Biden administration gave a “green light for an operation in Rafah” if Israel declined to strike Iran in retaliation for last weekend’s attack on its territory.

Israel did not immediately comment on Thursday’s meeting, which followed similar talks on 1 April.

At the time, US officials reportedly told the Israelis their planning for Rafah was insufficient for evacuating and protecting Palestinian civilians sheltering there after being forced to flee their homes.

The resolution to grant full UN member status to a State of Palestine was vetoed by the US at a meeting of the Security Council.

The Palestinian Authority has had observer status since 2012 but cannot vote in proceedings. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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