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Israel Briefs US on Evacuation Plan for Palestinians Ahead of Planned Rafah Assault
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 3, 2024

The Chahine family prepares to bury two adults and five boys and girls under the age of 16 after an overnight Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Friday, May 3, 2024. (AP/Ismael Abu Dayyah)

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WASHINGTON — Israel this week briefed Biden administration officials on a plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians ahead of a potential operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah aimed at rooting out Hamas militants, according to U.S. officials familiar with the talks.

The officials, who were not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity to speak about the sensitive exchange, said that the plan detailed by the Israelis did not change the U.S. administration’s view that moving forward with an operation in Rafah would put too many innocent Palestinian civilians at risk.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to carry out a military operation in Rafah despite warnings from President Joe Biden and other western officials that doing so would result in more civilian deaths and worsen an already dire humanitarian crisis.

UN: Hundreds of Thousands of Potential Deaths

On Friday, the United Nations humanitarian aid agency said that hundreds of thousands of people would be “at imminent risk of death” if Israel carries out a military assault in Rafah. The border city is a critical entry point for humanitarian aid and is filled with displaced Palestinians, many in densely packed tent camps.

An Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight Friday killed seven people — mostly children.

The Biden administration has said that there could be consequences for Israel should it move forward with the operation without a credible plan to safeguard civilians.

Some 1.5 million Palestinians have sheltered in the southern Gaza city as the territory has been ravaged by the war that began on Oct. 7 after Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday that no “comprehensive” plan for a potential Rafah operation has been revealed by the Israelis to the White House. The operation, however, has been discussed during recent calls between Biden and Netanyahu as well as during recent virtual talks with top Israeli and U.S. national security officials.

“We want to make sure that those conversations continue because it is important to protect those Palestinian lives — those innocent lives,” Jean-Pierre said.

Cease-Fire Talks Continue

The revelation of Israel’s continued push to carry out a Rafah operation came as CIA director William Burns arrived Friday in Egypt, where negotiators are trying to seal a cease-fire accord between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas is considering the latest proposal for a cease-fire and hostage release put forward by U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators, who are looking to avert the Rafah operation.

They have publicly pressed Hamas to accept the terms of the deal that would lead to an extended cease-fire and an exchange of Israeli hostages taken captive on Oct. 7 and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hamas has said it will send a delegation to Cairo in the coming days for further discussions on the offer, though it has not specified when.

 

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