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March 19, 2024 (EIRNS)—President Joe Biden’s 45-minute call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, their first since February 15, called for ending any plan for invading Rafah, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. He provided a readout at the press conference afterwards, stating: “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.” Rather, Sullivan claimed: “The key goals Israel wants to achieve in Rafah can be done by other means...,. From our perspective, it is connecting Israel’s objective to a sustainable strategy. That is the final thing we need to focus on right now, rather than have Israel go smash into Rafah. That is what the President talked to the Prime Minister about today.”

Sullivan reported that Biden had asked Netanyahu to send an interagency team to Washington “to lay out an alternative approach that would target key Hamas elements in Rafah and secure the Egypt-Gaza border without a major ground invasion…. Obviously, [Netanyahu] has his own point of view on a Rafah operation, but he agreed that he would send a team to Washington to have this discussion, and we look forward to those discussions.”

Sullivan said that Biden is “deeply concerned” about Netanyahu’s announced plan to launch a massive Israeli offensive in Rafah, which included the contention that Israel would set up “humanitarian islands” for the civilians of Rafah. (Israel’s track record over the last 6 months in providing for Gaza civilians has not been encouraging.) Sullivan said of Rafah’s 1.4 million civilians: “They have nowhere else to go. Gaza’s other major cities have largely been destroyed, and Israel has not presented us or the world with a plan for how or where they would safely move those civilians, let alone feed and house them and ensure access to basic things like sanitation.”

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