US would support limited IDF operation in Rafah to go after high-value Hamas targets — report

US officials have relayed to Israeli counterparts that the Biden administration would support a limited operation in Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah, that would prioritize “high-value” Hamas targets in and underneath the city and forgo a large-scale offensive, Politico reports, citing four US officials.

The US has opposed an Israeli offensive in Rafah — believed to be Hamas’s last stronghold and home to its last four battalions — without a plan to protect over a million displaced Gazans who have found refuge in the city from fighting in the northern and central parts of the Palestinian enclave. Other countries have also warned Israel against an invasion of Rafah.

But unnamed officials tell Politico that in private meetings, top administration officials have told the Israelis that the US would back a strategy for “counterterrorism operations” in Rafah rather than full-scale war, like elsewhere in Gaza.

An Israeli official tells the publication that some kind of offensive or operation in Gaza is inevitable.

“At the end of the day, we cannot win this war without defeating Hamas’ battalions in Rafah,” the official says.

Earlier today, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hinted that Israel will soon launch a ground operation in Rafah in southern Gaza while on a visit to Gaza City.

“There is no safe place in Gaza for terrorists…Those who think that we are delaying will soon see that we will reach everyone,” he says. “We will bring to justice anyone who was involved in October 7 — either we will eliminate them or bring them to trial in Israel. There is no safe place, not here, not outside of Gaza, not anywhere across the Middle East — we will bring everyone to their place.”

A Defense Department official tells Politico that the US has not picked up that an offensive on Rafah is imminent.

“They’d have to do some repositioning of forces, and that has not happened,” says the official. “It’s not imminent.”

“Israel is going to do what Israel decides to do. It’s kind of like trying to predict the weather,” the official adds. “But has the message sent been heard? Yes.”

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