War in the Middle East: Report: USA has alternatives to the Rafah offensive

According to a media report, the USA will show Israel alternatives to a ground offensive in the refugee-filled city of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip.

War in the Middle East: Report: USA has alternatives to the Rafah offensive

According to a media report, the USA will show Israel alternatives to a ground offensive in the refugee-filled city of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. The government of US President Joe Biden is weighing several options that it will propose to a senior Israeli delegation in Washington next week, the news portal Axios reported, citing two US officials.

One idea is to postpone a military operation in the city of Rafah, which borders Egypt, and concentrate on stabilizing the humanitarian situation in the north of the sealed-off coastal area. Such a plan would also include building shelters for civilians to be evacuated from Rafah, it said. The aim is to reduce the risk of massive casualties in an invasion of Rafah.

Israel is pushing for a ground offensive

After intensive Israeli bombing in the north and center of the coastal area, it is estimated that 1.5 million of the 2.2 million residents of the Gaza Strip are currently staying in Rafah. The border crossing with Egypt is also located there, through which aid deliveries can reach the Gaza Strip and, among other things, the wounded can leave the area.

Another idea is to concentrate on securing the Egyptian side of the border in an initial phase, it said. This would be part of a joint plan by the US, Egypt and Israel to destroy Islamist Hamas tunnels under the border and create infrastructure that would prevent arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, Axios reported, citing US officials.

Israel repeatedly emphasizes that without an offensive in Rafah, Hamas cannot be completely defeated. It is a military necessity to destroy the Islamist battalions that remain there. However, the USA considers a large-scale ground offensive to be wrong. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed, following a request from US President Biden, to send a delegation to Washington in the coming days to talk about Rafah.

Netanyahu does not believe in an alternative

“Axios” quoted Netanyahu as saying that they are ready to do this so that the US government can present its ideas to Israel “particularly in the humanitarian area”. However, he is committed to eliminating the last Hamas battalions in Rafah. There is "no way" to achieve this without a ground offensive, he said at a meeting of the Israeli Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Accordingly, Netanyahu will send his minister Ron Dermer and security advisor Tzachi Hanegbi to the talks in Washington early next week. An Israel Defense Forces humanitarian officer will travel with them. However, contrary to US demands, the delegation would not include any army officers who are responsible for military planning of the operation in Rafah, it was said. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant is expected to travel separately to Washington next week for talks with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior officials, Axios said, citing Israeli and US officials.

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