Israel to send delegation to US as Gaza Rafah assault looms

Israel to send delegation to US as Gaza Rafah assault looms
Jake Sullivan's comments come following the UN's announcement that Gaza will enter a famine between mid-March and May if aid into the enclave is not scaled up
3 min read
19 March, 2024
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan made the announcement after a call between Biden and Netanyahu [Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images]

An Israeli delegation is set to head to Washington to discuss with President Joe Biden's administration plans for an offensive into Gaza's southern city of Rafah.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced the upcoming meeting during a press conference on Monday, where he said military, intelligence, and humanitarian officials from both sides would discuss Israel's operation.

He added that the administration thought a ground invasion would be a mistake, with Biden telling Netanyahu during a call between the two the reasons for the disagreement.

This includes the lack of an Israeli plan to safeguard the 1.5 million people in Rafah, as well as the potential of exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe and damaging relations with Egypt.

"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," Sullivan said.

He also announced that US intelligence believed Hamas' military commander Marwan Issa, deputy commander to the movement's military commander Mohammed Deif, was killed by Israel last week.

Sullivan's comments came as Netanyahu reiterated Israel's intention to conduct a ground assault against Rafah and approved military plans for the attack.

Netanyahu has continued to state that international pressure, including from the US, would not stop an assault.

"You cannot say you support Israel's goal of destroying Hamas and then oppose Israel when it takes the actions necessary to achieve that goal," Netanyahu said at an AIPAC conference last week.

He has also reiterated that if such an operation did not occur, Israel would lose the war.

Speaking on Monday, Sullivan appeared to push back against the Israeli premier's claims.

Sullivan said that Biden "rejected – and did again today – the strawman [argument] that raising questions about Rafah is the same as raising questions about defeating Hamas. That's just nonsense".

Elsewhere on Monday, the UN reiterated its warning of a looming famine in Gaza, warning that the threat was now "imminent".

A report from the UN's Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) estimated famine would engulf Gaza between mid-March and May. It added that around 1.1 million were facing "catastrophic conditions".

Commenting on the announcement, humanitarian organisation Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) blamed Israel for the famine conditions, accusing it of using starvation as a weapon of war.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed 31,819 Palestinians, mostly women and children, with a further 73,934 being injured.