US and Israeli officials hold virtual talks on dispute over potential Rafah military operation

April 2, 2024 by No Comments

WASHINGTON (AP) — American and Israeli officials were holding virtual talks Monday to discuss the potential expansion of Israel’s war against Hamas to the southern Gaza city of Rafah, a move the U.S. opposes on humanitarian grounds. The officials met by secure video conference, a week after planned in-person talks were called off by Israeli when the U.S. didn’t veto a U.N. resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, said the U.S. anticipates that “expert teams” will follow up on the talks in person. President Joe Biden and his administration have publicly and privately urged Israel for months to refrain from a large-scale incursion into Rafah — where more than 1.3 million civilians are estimated to have fled from other parts of — without a credible plan to relocate and safeguard noncombatants. Netanyahu has insisted that Israel must be able to enter the city as it has the rest of the territory in order to root out Hamas’ remaining brigades, as Israeli forces try to eradicate the group after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The potential operation in the city has exposed one of the deepest rifts between Israel and its closest ally, funder and arms supplier. The U.S. has already openly said Israel must do more to allow food and other goods through its blockade of Gaza to avert famine. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, was leading the U.S. delegation in the meeting, which was rescheduled from this coming Friday because “we wanted to move very quickly on this.”