US, Israeli officials to hold virtual meeting to discuss Rafah invasion 'alternatives'

US, Israeli officials to hold virtual meeting to discuss Rafah invasion 'alternatives'
US and Israeli officials are expected to hold a video conference meeting on Monday to discuss alternatives to an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah
2 min read
01 April, 2024
Over a million Palestinians have fled to Rafah after being displaced by Israel's bombardment [Getty]

The US and Israel will hold a virtual meeting on Monday to discuss a possible Israeli ground attack on Rafah and ways to avoid the looming assault, sources have told news site Axios.

Citing four American and Israeli officials, Axios said the meeting will discuss alternative proposals by President Joe Biden’s administration to the potential invasion of Rafah, adding that the meeting was supposed to be held last week.

Rafah, at the southernmost end of the besieged Gaza Strip, is the last major urban centre in the enclave yet to be stormed by Israeli forces, although it has been hit by deadly airstrikes.

More than a million Palestinians are seeking refuge there, displaced by Israel’s savage bombardment of the Gaza Strip killed over 32,000 people so far. An Israeli ground assault is likely to cause a humanitarian catastrophe and thousands more casualties.

The issue has exacerbated an already tense relationship between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Gaza war.

Netanyahu had earlier cancelled a real-life meeting in protest at the US refusing to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, but then asked for a virtual meeting to be scheduled.

Israel has repeatedly warned that a ground invasion of Rafah was imminent as part of its "war on Hamas." The latest threat was made on Sunday by Netanyahu, who said his war cabinet approved operational plans for the invasion.

Citing senior Israeli officials, Axios reported that the virtual meeting "is a way for Netanyahu to save face" and discuss Rafah without the need to send a delegation to Washington.

Live Story

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is expected to head the American side in the meeting, in which officials from the Pentagon, State Department and US intelligence will participate.

Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi, Netanyahu’s closest confidant, will lead Israel’s team.

A second meeting, in person, is planned to take place as soon as next week, a senior Israeli official revealed according to Axios.