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Gaza war: Biden presses Netanyahu against Rafah invasion – World News



President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu engaged in discussions Monday morning amidst escalating tensions in Israel, particularly concerning the potential for an Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, reported Associated Press. 

The United States has expressed strong opposition to such a move on humanitarian grounds, it added. 

During the conversation, Biden emphasized U.S. concerns regarding the possible invasion of Rafah, highlighting the plight of over 1 million civilians who have sought shelter there amid the ongoing conflict sparked by Hamas’ attack on Israel in October last year. The President reiterated his belief that reaching a ceasefire agreement with Hamas remains the most effective means of safeguarding the lives of Israeli hostages in Gaza.

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The call took place shortly before Biden’s scheduled private lunch meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House on Monday.

In a defiant speech on Sunday, Netanyahu rejected international pressure to halt the hostilities, asserting Israel’s determination to defend itself, even if it means standing alone. He emphasized that no amount of external pressure would sway Israel from its commitment to self-defense.

The Israeli military’s directive for approximately 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah on Monday indicates the possibility of an imminent ground invasion, complicating efforts to broker a ceasefire, reported AP. 

During the call, Biden also briefed Netanyahu on ongoing efforts to secure a hostage release, including discussions underway in Qatar. Netanyahu assured Biden of Israel’s commitment to keeping the Kerem Shalom crossing open for the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Tensions escalated further on Sunday when Hamas launched rockets at Israeli troops near the Gaza border, resulting in the death of four soldiers. In response, Israeli airstrikes targeted Rafah, claiming the lives of 22 individuals, including children and infants.

Israeli officials had previously briefed the Biden administration on plans to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah ahead of a potential operation. However, the U.S. remains concerned that proceeding with such an operation would endanger innocent lives.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had emphasized the need for a credible plan from Israel to evacuate civilians and ensure humanitarian aid delivery. While Israeli officials have outlined concepts for the operation, no detailed plan has been provided as of yet.

Those ordered to evacuate are expected to relocate from Rafah to a designated humanitarian zone called Muwasi, located nearby on the coast.

With inputs from the Associated Press. 

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