Biden: Major Israeli ground operation in Rafah would be a mistake

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Biden: Major Israeli ground operation in Rafah would be a mistake

Biden has asked Netanyahu send a team to Washington to 'discuss ways to target Hamas without a major ground operation in Rafah'

President Biden. Courtesy: White House
President Biden. Courtesy: White House

U.S. President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he opposes an Israeli ground operation in Rafah where around one million Palestinians are sheltering. 

Biden spoke with Netanyahu on the phone on Monday, asking him to send a team to Washington to “discuss ways to target Hamas without a major ground operation in Rafah.”

“I continued to affirm that Israel has a right to go after Hamas, a group of terrorists responsible for the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. And I reiterated the need for an immediate ceasefire as part of a deal to free hostages, lasting several weeks, so we can get hostages home and surge aid to civilians in Gaza,” Biden added.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan later revealed Biden told Netanyahu that a major ground operation in Rafah “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,” Sullivan said.

Washington has long opposed a ground operation in Rafah unless Israel could prevent a viable plan to evacuate civilians, which Jerusalem hasn’t done so far.

Netanyahu, however, approved the IDF military plan to go after Hamas in Rafah last week, but hasn’t specified when it would be launched.

“We have a disagreement with the Americans about the need to enter Rafah. Not about the need to eliminate Hamas — the need to enter Rafah. We do not see a way to eliminate Hamas militarily without destroying these remaining battalions. We are determined to do it,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

“I made it clear to the president in our conversation, in the clearest way, that we are determined to complete the elimination of these battalions in Rafah. There is no way to do it, except by going in on the ground,” he added.

Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea left for Qatar on Monday to continue ceasefire and hostage negotiations with Hamas.

Israel, however, expects that the negotiations might take up to two weeks due to communication challenges between Hamas’ leadership in Gaza and abroad.

Hamas has also refused so far to give up its demands for a permanent ceasefire and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

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