Sullivan discusses IDF’s Rafah operations with Israeli leaders

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

Egyptian army soldiers man an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) deployed near the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024 (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)
Egyptian army soldiers man an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) deployed near the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on March 23, 2024 (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Sullivan also convened a modified meeting of the US-Israel Strategic Consultative Group, which met several times virtually to discuss Israel’s potential offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

In today’s in-person meeting with top Israeli security officials, Sullivan was briefed on the IDF’s latest operations in Gaza. “The two sides discussed methods to ensure the defeat of Hamas while minimizing harm to civilians,” the US readout says, highlighting a sticking point in ties, as Washington feels Israel has not done nearly enough on this issue.

During this meeting, Sullivan reiterated the US position against a major military offensive in Rafah due to fears that it’ll cause further harm to the civilians sheltering there, while risking irreparable damage to ties with fellow ally Egypt, which shares a border with Rafah.

“Sullivan proposed a series of concrete measures to ensure more aid surges into Gaza, including through all available crossings, and through the multinational humanitarian maritime corridor,” the US readout says.

“Sullivan briefed on US support for Israeli efforts to find and bring to justice Hamas’s leaders in Gaza,” the readout adds, highlighting that Washington still supports targeted operations against Hamas’s leaders, including in Rafah.

The top Biden aide briefed Israeli counterparts on talks the US has held with Egypt “to fully secure its border with Rafah and to secure the continued flow of humanitarian assistance through Kerem Shalom, even as talks proceed on reopening the Rafah Crossing.”

US officials have said that an expanded Israeli operation in Rafah risks harming Egypt’s willingness to cooperate on these efforts, as Cairo doesn’t want to be seen as collaborating with Israel against the interests of Palestinians, who are being forced to relocate again in Gaza due to the offensive.

Kerem Shalom has become the main entry point for aid, with Rafah being shut down after Israeli forces took over the area earlier this month. Egypt has indicated it will not coordinate on bringing aid through Rafah until the troops depart.

Sullivan also stressed steps Israel can take to improve existing deconfliction mechanisms so that aid workers are protected, days after another pair of humanitarian staff were killed in Gaza.

Sullivan highlighted the need for Israel to “establish fixed corridors inside Gaza to ensure aid is able to reach all those in need throughout Gaza.”

The US national security adviser “reaffirmed the need for Israel to connect its military operations to a political strategy that can ensure the lasting defeat of Hamas, the release of all the hostages and a better future for Gaza,” the readout says, pointing out a major criticism the US has had of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arguing that his refusal to plan for who will replace Hamas in Gaza has led to the stagnation of Israel’s military gains.

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