US President Joe Biden, left, pauses during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS

Israel Team to Visit US Over Biden Concerns on Rafah, Gaza ‘Anarchy’

By Reuters and Algemeiner Staff |

US President Joe Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that an Israeli military operation in Rafah would deepen anarchy in Gaza and they agreed that teams from each side would meet in Washington to discuss it, the White House said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters the two countries would have a comprehensive discussion on the way forward in Gaza, where Israel has been fighting the Hamas terrorist group in the Palestinian enclave for over five months.

The meeting could happen this week or next, Sullivan said, and no Rafah operation would proceed before the talks.

“Anarchy reigns in areas that Israel‘s military has cleared, but not stabilized” in Gaza and a humanitarian crisis would deepen if Israel were to go ahead with an offensive in Rafah, Sullivan said, summarizing Biden’s message to Netanyahu.

“We’ve had many discussions in many different levels between our military, our intelligence, our diplomats, our humanitarian experts, but we have not yet had the opportunity to have an all-encompassing comprehensive, integrated, strategic discussion,” he said.

The two leaders have had increasingly tense relations over Gaza. Sullivan described the conversation as “businesslike” and said it did not end abruptly. Biden did not threaten to limit US aid to Israel, he said.

Biden told Netanyahu that he needs a coherent strategy for Gaza, Sullivan said, “rather than Israel go smashing into Rafah,” the last Hamas stronghold in the coastal enclave. He reiterated US support for the Israeli effort to destroy Hamas terrorists who attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, murdering 1,200 people and kidnapping 253 others as hostages. The surprise invasion launched the current war in Hamas-ruled Gaza, from which the terror group launched the massacre.

Sullivan also confirmed that Marwan Issa, the No. 3 leader within Hamas’ ranks, was killed in an Israeli operation last week. Hamas has not commented.

The call was the first between the two leaders since Feb. 15 and comes amid sharp tensions between Israel and its most steadfast ally over Netanyahu’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Netanyahu said the two men discussed Israel‘s commitment to achieve all the targets it had set out for the war: eliminating Hamas, releasing all the hostages, and ensuring Gaza would no longer pose a threat to Israel.

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