Israeli, US officials holding virtual meeting about plans for ground op in Rafah

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Palestinians look at a house destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, March 26, 2024. (AP/Fatima Shbair)
Palestinians look at a house destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, March 26, 2024. (AP/Fatima Shbair)

Top Israeli and US officials are holding a virtual meeting today to discuss a potential Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says.

The meeting is being led by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the US side and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, along with National Security Council chair Tzachi Hanegbi, on the Israeli side.

It was supposed to have been held in person last week, but was delayed after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to send his top aides to Washington in protest of the US decision to allow for the passage of a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire and hostage release without explicitly conditioning the former on the latter.

“We know that there are Hamas operators in Rafah, but if they are going to move forward with military operations, we have to have this conversation,” Jean-Pierre says, in response to a question on the matter during a press briefing.

She argues that the US believes that there are alternatives to the mass ground invasion that Israel is seeking to launch and that other options will be presented at today’s meeting.

Two senior US officials told The Times of Israel last month that Washington envisions Israel focusing instead on securing the Egypt-Gaza border and preventing the smuggling of weapons that have allowed Hamas to re-arm between wars with Israel.

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