The upcoming military operation that Israel is preparing against Rafah, Gaza, should not be carried out “without a credible and executable plan that guarantees security and support” for the 1.4 million refugees in this city on the border with Egypt, he said. US President Joe Biden has warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a White House statement.
Both leaders spoke by telephone this Sunday, in their first direct contact since January, and three days later, in a press conference, Biden told reporters that Israel had “gone too far” in its war on Gaza after the terrorist attacks of the Palestinian radical. Hamas militia on 7 October. Nearly 28,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them women and children, in the offensive ordered by Netanyahu’s government.
Those statements by the American president represent the latest sign of the growing tension between two governments that, behind closed doors, boast excellent relations. The Biden administration insists on sharing the goal of Israel’s security and the destruction of Hamas with the Netanyahu government, sends weapons to the allied country and rejects international requests for a permanent ceasefire. But privately, as revealed by a leaked recording of a meeting with Arab-American leaders The New York Times, senior White House officials describe representatives of the Israeli executive branch as “abominable.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s recent visit to Tel Aviv ended with no apparent progress in attempts to moderate the positions of the radical right-wing Israeli government.
The telephone conversation between Biden and Netanyahu took place after Egypt threatened to suspend the peace treaty with Israel if Israeli troops entered Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population is gathered, having taken refuge to escape the bombings in the rest of the Strip. Cairo fears that the fighting could close the main and precarious route for humanitarian aid to enter the territory and that tens of thousands of Palestinians could try to cross the border to escape the bullets. Israel, for its part, claims that its presence in Rafah is essential to crown its victory against Hamas.
In an interview with the conservative television network Fox this Sunday, Netanyahu downplayed international concerns. The UN and humanitarian organizations warn of a disaster in the event of an attack on the border city, the last refuge of the Palestinian population, and underline that around 80% of the inhabitants of the Strip have already had to abandon their homes. But the prime minister assured his interviewer that there is “plenty of space north of Rafah for refugees to go there.” Furthermore, displaced people would be informed “with leaflets, mobile phones, safe corridors and more” so that they can move.
In Sunday’s meeting between the two leaders, Biden, who will receive King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House on Monday, also underlined “the need to build on the progress made in negotiations to secure the release of the hostages” in Gaza. “as soon as possible” and called for “urgent and specific measures” to increase the entry of humanitarian aid into the Strip, according to the presidential office.
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The President of the United States “reaffirmed our shared commitment to seeing Hamas defeated and to ensuring the long-term security of Israel and its people,” read the statement released by the White House. The two leaders “agreed to remain in close contact.”
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