Biden issues strong warning to Netanyahu against Rafah invasion

The United States has issued its strongest public warning to Israel against invading the crowded city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, saying that such a ground operation would deepen the humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday that while President Joe Biden remains committed to the goal of defeating Hamas, he communicated to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a major assault on Rafah would be a “mistake”.

“It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza and further isolate Israel Internationally,” Sullivan said.

He noted that Biden asked Netanyahu in a phone call to send a team of intelligence and military officials to Washington, DC, to hear concerns about any potential invasion of Rafah.

Biden wants to discuss concerns about the planned offensive in Rafah with Netanyahu and explore alternative options. Netanyahu agreed to send a team to engage in these discussions. The meeting is expected to take place at the end of this week or early next week, but the exact date is still pending,” he said.

The leaders of the United States and Israel, are discussing Israel’s plans for an attack in Rafah, a city in Gaza. Biden wants to talk about other options before Israel takes action.

At the same time, Israel’s spy chief, David Barnea, is meeting with mediators in Qatar. They’re trying to restart talks about stopping the fighting and swapping prisoners.

Recently, Hamas gave a new idea to the mediators. In this idea, Hamas doesn’t insist that Israel stops the fighting before they exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners, instead, they say Israel needs to stop fighting only temporarily before they can release more hostages.

This shows Hamas is getting closer to a plan the mediators suggested earlier, which Israel agreed to. Now, Israel is ready to join talks in Qatar after two weeks because Hamas made some progress.

These talks are expected to last around two weeks.

On the ground in Gaza, Israel concentrated its military activities on Monday on al-Shifa Hospital, where it said it had killed a senior official of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which was behind the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

The man was Faik al-Mabhouh, head of Hamas’ internal security department, which is also responsible for operational missions, according to a joint statement by the military and the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service.

Al-Mabhouh was also “responsible for coordinating Hamas terror activities in the Gaza Strip,” the statement said. Hamas initially gave no official confirmation of al-Mabhouh’s death. Al-Mabhouh was killed after intelligence information was received about the presence of senior Hamas members in the al-Shifa hospital, the army said.

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He had been hiding armed in a building of the hospital complex and was killed in a confrontation with the troops, the statement said.

Several weapons were found in the room next to his hiding place, as eyewitnesses reported heavy gunfire inside the hospital.

There were reports that a journalist from Arabic broadcaster Al-Jazeera was among dozens of people detained in the hospital.

Israel Defense Forces, IDF, spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a briefing on Monday evening that “we apprehended over two hundred terror suspects who are currently under investigation, eliminated more than twenty terrorists within the hospital area.”

Hagari added that IDF forces would “continue to operate in the hospital area tonight.” Reports from Gaza also indicated that the man killed was a brother of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was murdered in Dubai in 2010. At the time, Dubai police accused the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad of being behind the crime. One accusation against Mahmud al-Mabhouh was that he had procured weapons for Hamas.

The case caused quite a stir internationally. Prior to the operation, the IDF urged Palestinians sheltering in Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital to leave the conflict zone.

“You should leave the area to the west immediately to ensure your safety and then … to the humanitarian zone in al-Mawasi,” an IDF spokesman wrote in Arabic on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday morning. He was referring to a town on the coast of the Gaza Strip in the far south. The IDF also dropped flyers.

Hagari in the morning had said that the operation followed “concrete intelligence that demanded immediate action.” The military said it would “continue to act in accordance with international law and against the Hamas terrorist organization – which operates from hospitals and civilian infrastructure in a systematic and cynical way.”

The U.S. government had also supported the Israeli claim that Hamas had used the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip as a command centre and weapons depot.

The Israeli military has killed more than 31,000 Palestinians in Gaza since the start of the war on October 7, following a deadly attack on southern Israel that killed at least 1,100 people.

Throughout the war, Israel has ordered Palestinian civilians in Gaza to move south as it invaded the territory from the north.

Many residents were first displaced to the middle part of the enclave and then moved to the southern city of Khan Younis. They were ultimately forced to flee again to Rafah, situated on the Egyptian border.

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