Israel agrees to take into account US concerns over Rafah: White House

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US and Israeli officials on Thursday discussed American concerns with various courses of action in Rafah, which Israel agreed to take into account and discuss further, the White House said, adding officials will meet again soon.

“The two sides agreed on the shared objective to see Hamas defeated in Rafah,” the White House said in a statement. The meeting involved the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group, which was convened by US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, the White House added.

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President Joe Biden has urged Israel not to conduct a large-scale offensive in Rafah to avoid more Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza, where Palestinian health authorities say more than 33,000 people have been killed in Israel’s assault.

The meeting comes as Israel considers launching an attack on Iranian targets in response to Iran’s launching of a barrage of drones and ballistic missiles last weekend against Israel.

Washington is trying to dissuade the Israelis from retaliatory strikes to avoid inflaming an already tense situation, a second US official said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan was to lead the talks from the US side, with participation from Biden’s Middle East envoy, Brett McGurk, among others.

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Israel’s strategic affairs minister Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi are again expected to head the Israeli delegation in the virtual talks, an Israeli official said. The official said topics would include “the operational and humanitarian planning for Rafah.”

Plans for in-person talks on Rafah have been delayed in the aftermath of Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel, the official said.

In Ramallah, the Palestinian government called on the Biden administration to “intervene immediately to stop the ongoing Israeli aggression against our Palestinian people.”

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