Israel, US hold virtual meeting on Rafah offensive plans

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Tensions have risen between Israel and its chief backer the United States over the heavy civilian death toll in Gaza.
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  • The Israeli side agreed to take the concerns into account and to have follow up discussions
  • The statement said that follow-up discussions will include in-person meetings next week

Washington, US–Israel will take “into account” US concerns over its planned offensive in the crowded city of Rafah, where more than a million civilians are sheltering from fighting in Gaza, the White House said Monday.

Tensions have risen between Israel and its chief backer the United States over the heavy civilian death toll in Gaza, and especially over Israeli plans to send ground forces into the southern city.

But the two sides had a “constructive engagement on Rafah” during two hours of videoconference talks, attended by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the White House said in a statement.

“The US side expressed its concerns with various courses of action in Rafah. The Israeli side agreed to take these concerns into account and to have follow up discussions,” the statement added.

The Israeli side was chaired by National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Minster for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, according to the White House.

Follow-up discussions will include in-person meetings as early as next week, the statement added.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign, aimed at destroying Hamas, has killed at least 32,845 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Many civilians have fled to Rafah to escape the fighting.

Israel had agreed to send a delegation to Washington for discussions on its Rafah plans, but canceled the trip after the United States last week declined to veto a UN Security Council ceasefire call, abstaining instead, which allowed it to pass.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists that the goal of Monday’s meeting had been the same as that of the canceled delegation visit.

The aim had been to “understand what their plans are for any type of operation within Rafah, to understand how they’re going to move or conduct operations with a very concentrated population that’s there, over a million people,” Singh told journalists.

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