Biden spoke with Netanyahu as Israelis appeared close to a major offensive

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden again urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against launching an offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah as Israel on Monday appeared to be moving closer to a major military operation to root out Hamas militants.
Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel will continue its operations in Gaza as officials deliberate the cease-fire proposal approved by Hamas.
And the Israeli War Cabinet voted unanimously to approve a Rafah military operation but will continue cease-fire efforts.
The Israeli military also said it was conducting “targeted strikes” against Hamas in eastern Rafah.
Biden administration officials on Monday continued to express concerns to the Israelis that a major military operation into Rafah’s densely populated areas could be catastrophic.
Biden told Netanyahu he still believes reaching a cease-fire with Hamas is the best way to protect the lives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, officials said.
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes on Rafah killed 22 people, including children and two infants, according to a hospital.
Israeli officials last week briefed Biden administration officials on a plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians ahead of a potential operation, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — As Israel on Monday seemed to be getting closer to a significant military operation to root out Hamas militants, President Joe Biden once again urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against leading an offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

However, Hamas said in a statement that it has accepted an Egyptian-Qatari proposal for a cease-fire to end the seven-month-long conflict with Israel in Gaza, shortly after Israel declared that it was directing approximately 100,000 Palestinians to start evacuating from Rafah.

Military spokesman for Israel, Rear Adm. As officials consider the cease-fire proposal that Hamas approved, Daniel Hagari stated that Israel will carry on with its operations in Gaza. Additionally, the Israeli War Cabinet decided to proceed with the cease-fire efforts while unanimously approving a military operation in Rafah.

A statement regarding “targeted strikes” against Hamas in eastern Rafah was also issued by the Israeli military. Although the exact nature of the strikes was unknown at the time, it seemed that the action was taken to maintain pressure while negotiations went on.

Officials from the Biden administration kept warning the Israelis on Monday that they were concerned about the potentially disastrous effects of a large-scale military operation into the heavily populated areas of Rafah.

According to a person familiar with administration thinking who was not authorized to comment publicly, White House officials were also privately concerned about the most recent strikes on Rafah on Monday, even though they did not seem to be the kind of broad attack that Netanyahu has been threatening.

Biden had been informed of Hamas’ response, according to White House national security spokesperson John Kirby. While in Qatar for hostage negotiations with regional officials, CIA Director William Burns spoke with regional allies about the Hamas statement. Kirby refused to talk about the specifics of what Hamas claims to have consented to.

“Bill Burns is considering that answer. Kirby informed reporters, “He’s discussing it with the Israelis.”. We will monitor the progress of this. Hopefully, it will result in the hostages being freed very soon. “.

Officials from Egypt and Hamas have stated in recent days that the cease-fire would occur in phases, with Hamas releasing hostages in return for Israeli troops withdrawing from Gaza.

High-ranking representatives of the Biden administration have been openly pressuring Hamas to accept what they have called an offer from the Israelis that would result in an extended ceasefire, the release of Palestinian detainees from Israeli jails, and possibly pave the way for a long-term resolution to the conflict.

According to the White House, during a phone conversation with Netanyahu on Monday morning, Biden emphasized U. S. worries about an invasion of Rafah, the area in Gaza where over a million civilians from other areas are seeking refuge during the conflict ignited by Hamas’ Oct. Over 34,000 Palestinians have died as a result of Israel’s attack, and the region is now impoverished.

As per the officials, Biden conveyed to Netanyahu his continued belief that the best course of action for safeguarding the lives of Israeli hostages in Gaza is to achieve a cease-fire with Hamas. According to Israel, Hamas is reportedly holding over 30 additional hostages and roughly 100 hostages in Gaza.

The leaders’ call came before Hamas declared its acceptance of a proposal for a cease-fire.

“This morning, the president reaffirmed our opposition to ground operations in Rafah,” Kirby said.

The most recent information was revealed when Biden met privately with King Abdullah II of Jordan on Monday over lunch to talk about the war and the hostage negotiations. After the leaders’ meeting, Abdullah issued a warning that an Israeli operation on Rafah “threatens to lead to a new massacre,” according to a post made by Jordan’s embassy in Washington on the social media platform X. “.

During the nation’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day speech on Sunday, Netanyahu angrily rejected international pressure to end the war in Gaza, saying, “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone.”. “.

He addressed the world’s leaders in English, saying, “No amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum will stop Israel from defending itself.”. “Never again is now. “.

About 100,000 Palestinians were given the order by the Israeli army on Monday to start leaving Rafah, indicating that a ground invasion may be on the horizon and making efforts to mediate a cease-fire more difficult.

When four Israeli soldiers were killed by rockets fired by Hamas on Sunday, tensions increased. The soldiers were stationed close to Israel’s main crossing with Gaza, where humanitarian aid is delivered. Twenty-two people, including two infants and children, were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Rafah, a hospital claims.

Netanyahu also promised Biden that he would make sure that supplies of humanitarian aid could continue to pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza, the White House reported.

Israeli officials last week reportedly briefed Biden administration officials on a plan to evacuate civilians in Palestine in advance of a possible operation. S. those with knowledge of the situation.

The officials, who spoke about the private conversation on condition of anonymity since they were not allowed to publicly comment, claimed that the Israeli plan did not alter U.S. s. The administration believes that carrying out an operation in Rafah would endanger an excessive number of defenseless Palestinian civilians.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had previously emphasized to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to Pat Ryder, that Israel required a “credible plan” to evacuate those civilians while continuing to provide humanitarian aid. According to Ryder, Austin had seen “the concepts” that the Israelis had for their operation in Rafah, “but nothing detailed at this point.”. “.

The people being ordered to leave Rafah will reportedly relocate from some areas of the city to Muwasi, a makeshift camp on the coast that Israel has declared a humanitarian zone.

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