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6 May, 2024 20:50

US tells Israel it won’t back Rafah operation ‘as currently planned’

Attacking the Gazan city would disrupt humanitarian aid deliveries, the State Department has said
US tells Israel it won’t back Rafah operation ‘as currently planned’

The US cannot support a full-scale attack on Rafah as it would lead to additional loss of life and disrupt humanitarian aid deliveries, the State Department said on Monday.

The comments by State Department spokesman Matthew Miller came as Israeli jets began bombing the city on the border with Egypt, currently home to about 1.4 million Palestinians displaced from northern and central Gaza.

“We do not support Israel launching a full-scale military operation in Rafah,” Miller told reporters in Washington. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials in West Jerusalem last week that the US could not support an attack on Rafah “as it is currently envisioned,” Miller added.

Israel did not present the US with a humanitarian plan for the enclave “that is credible and that is implementable,” the State Department spokesman said. “We believe that a military operation in Rafah right now would dramatically increase the suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Miller pointed out that most of the humanitarian aid currently being delivered to Gaza comes through Rafah via Egypt, noting that an incursion into the city would “make it incredibly difficult to sustain the increases in humanitarian assistance that we have been able to deliver.”

Earlier in the day, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told Rafah residents to evacuate because it was preparing to strike the city with “extreme force.” Airstrikes began several hours later.  

Netanyahu has threatened to send troops into the city for several months, arguing that it was necessary to guarantee Israel a “total victory” over Hamas. Last week, the Israeli prime minister said he intended to do so regardless of a ceasefire deal with the Palestinian group or international pressure.

“We will fight the monsters of Hamas and destroy them for good,” Netanyahu said, adding that “no amount of pressure, no decision by any international forum, will stop Israel from defending itself.”

Netanyahu declared war on Hamas last October, after the Gaza-based group carried out a series of deadly raids into Israeli territory. More than 1,100 Israelis were reported killed in the October 7 attack. More than 34,000 Palestinians were killed and over 78,000 wounded in Israeli military operations since then, according to the Gazan health ministry.