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Washington says Israel will consider US humanitarian concerns ahead of expected major Rafah military operation

Hamas is believed to have a sizable force of between 4,000 and 8,000 operatives in Rafah area

Israeli soldiers in Gaza (Photo: IDF)

Top American and Israeli officials exchanged views on a potential major Israeli military operation against the Hamas terror organization’s last major stronghold Rafah during a virtual meeting on Monday.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan led the U.S. team while the Israeli side was led by Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi.

The Biden administration says Israel has agreed to consider Washington’s humanitarian concerns as part of its planned incursion to neutralize the four Hamas battalions in the southern Gazan town of Rafah. The IDF operation is complicated by the presence of more than one million Gazan civilians in the area.

While the Biden administration backs Israel's right to defend itself, Washington and other Western governments have expressed concerns that Gazan civilians would be trapped in the fighting between Hamas terrorists and Israeli forces.

In March, the Biden administration said it could accept smaller counter-terrorism raids but opposed a large IDF operation in Rafah.

“A major ground operation there 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 argued in March.

The White House announced on Monday that Washington and Jerusalem “share the objective to see Hamas defeated in Rafah.”

Hamas is believed to have a sizable force of between 4,000 and 8,000 operatives in the Rafah area. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials have noted that capturing Rafah is a critical objective in order to dismantle Hamas as an organized political and military force in Gaza.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre publicly admitted that Washington is aware of a large number of Hamas terrorists in the Rafah area.

“We know that there are Hamas operators in Rafah, but if they are going to move forward with military operations, we have to have this conversation,” Jean-Pierre stated during a press briefing.

However, Washington has not presented in public how to neutralize such a large number of terrorists without a large-scale IDF military operation.

Dermer, who is a close Netanyahu aide, emphasized in March that Israel was prepared to fight Hamas in Rafah with or without international support including Washington.

“It will happen even if Israel is forced to fight alone. Even if the entire world turns on Israel, including the United States, we’re going to fight until the battle’s won,” Dermer pledged.

As the Israeli government prepares its military action against Hamas in Rafah, it is also organizing a large-scale evacuation to move over one million Gazan civilians away from the areas of imminent danger.

The Rafah operation is further complicated by the city’s strategic position close to the Egyptian border.

The Egyptian government fears that a major military operation in Rafah would lead to masses of Gazans entering its territory, which Cairo opposes. Senior Israeli government officials have attempted to ease diplomatic tensions with Cairo by presenting Jerusalem’s Rafah plans to senior Egyptian officials ahead of the anticipated incursion.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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