Israeli minister lashes out at US officials during Rafah invasion talks

Israeli minister lashes out at US officials during Rafah invasion talks
A virtual meeting on Israel's planned ground invasion of Rafah ended with an Israeli official shouting at his US counterparts.
3 min read
04 April, 2024
Dermer allegedly lost his cool after the US rejected Israel's plan for the invasion of Rafah [Getty]

A top Israeli official reportedly shouted and waved his arms in anger after the Biden administration pushed back on Israel’s plans to invade the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, according to reports on Wednesday.

Ron Dermer, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, allegedly began shouting in frustration during the online meeting as he defended the plan, according to US officials speaking to NBC News.

American officials in the meeting, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reportedly maintained their composure and did not respond to Dermer, according to the officials.

Israel unveiled a strategy to relocate 1.4 million Palestinian civilians from Rafah to tent encampments north of the city over a span of several weeks, according to the officials.

However, the Israeli proposal lacked comprehensive planning for critical Palestinian needs, such as adequate sanitation, and failed to estimate the necessary provisions of food and water.

After the US officials told their Israeli counterparts that they did not consider the Israeli plan to be realistic, Dermer erupted in anger. 

Shortly after the initial reports of the contentious meeting emerged, an Israeli official rushed to deny it, telling NBC that “the meeting was constructive and respectful, even during disagreements … there was no yelling at any point.”

John Kirby, US spokesman for the National Security Council, said “the whole reason to have that meeting was to talk about our concerns over a major ground operation in Rafah and to present viable alternatives for [the Israelis] to be more precise and more targeted.”

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The alleged confrontation comes as the US and Israel find themselves at loggerheads over Israel’s determination to assault Rafah, which is crammed full of forcibly displaced Palestinians  from elsewhere in the devastated Gaza Strip. 

The US has repeatedly warned Israel against its plans to invade Rafah, with US President Joe Biden saying it would be a “mistake”.

On Wednesday, following Israel's killing of seven aid workers in Gaza, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart that this “reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah". 

Meanwhile, Egypt also directly warned Israel against an assault on Rafah during meetings with an Israeli delegation in Cairo, according to a report on Thursday.

An Egyptian source told The New Arab’s Arabic language sister outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the discussions “revealed an Israeli inclination to rapidly invade Rafah by land without preparing a plan that addresses Egyptian concerns, as well as international concerns regarding civilians.”

The source claimed that Israel’s invasion will occur before the end of April, but that Cairo warned that “it’s impossible under the current difficult conditions to provide safe havens for displaced civilians in such a short period.”