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Israeli officials hold virtual meeting with Biden administration ahead of possible Rafah invasion

U.S. and Israeli officials held a virtual meeting on April 1 to discuss the potential invasion of the Gazan city of Rafah, as reported by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

According to Ms. Jean-Pierre, the purpose of the meeting was to understand Israel’s plans for a military operation, considering the presence of Hamas operatives in Rafah.

The meeting was organized by the U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and attended by the Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and minister for strategic affairs Ron Dermer.

The White House issued a statement following the meeting, which involved the Strategic Consultative Group (SCG).

The statement highlighted that both sides acknowledged their shared objective of defeating Hamas in Rafah and had a productive two-hour discussion on the matter.

Plans were made for further expert-level discussions overseen by the SCG to address concerns expressed by the U.S. side, with a follow-up meeting scheduled for the following week.

The meeting took place after the U.S. abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire to enable humanitarian aid into Gaza. The abstention was due to the resolution not condemning Hamas for their attack on Israel in October 2023.

Despite initial tensions over canceled meetings between Israeli and U.S. officials, talks eventually resumed in Washington, covering various topics including the Gaza operation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel meetings was seen as a message to Hamas that international pressure would not sway Israel’s position on the conflict.

The White House reaffirmed its support for a temporary cease-fire to facilitate hostage exchange, while also providing arms and ammunition to Israel. However, it remains opposed to a major ground operation in Rafah.

The discussion centered around the differing views on a potential invasion of Rafah, with concerns about civilian casualties and the displacement of Gaza’s population arising from previous military actions.

Despite the U.S. abstention at the U.N., its policy towards supporting Israel remains unchanged, emphasizing the importance of finding alternatives to a ground operation in Rafah.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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