White House lays out three 'realities' Israel needs to address before operation in Rafah

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan did not say what Biden administration would do if Israel does not heed US warnings

Residents leave Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip amid warnings from Israel's Prime Minister of a coming major operation there. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

The White House on Wednesday said the US wants to see a credible plan from Israel that addresses three main “realities” before it launches a major military operation on the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said President Joe Biden's administration is having “intensive” conversations with the Israeli government on the safety of civilians, access to humanitarian aid and the potential that Palestinians would be pushed into Egyptian territory.

“We need answers to the question, not only where do people go, but how do they get a sustained level of aid, food, medicine, water and shelter,” Mr Sullivan said during a briefing at the White House.

“And then, the third reality is that this is pressed right up against the Egyptian border. And you've heard directly from the Egyptians – they're concerned about what that could potentially mean on that border.”

The comments come as the Biden administration has been pushing for a six-week humanitarian pause during which aid could enter the besieged strip and hostages held by Hamas could be released.

Mr Sullivan said diplomatic efforts were still ongoing for a deal with “multiple phases” that would lead to hostages being released in increments, which would then open up “potential options for where things can go from there”.

Latest from the Israel-Gaza war – in pictures

Even before a major military campaign on Rafah, a shipment of much-needed flour has been blocked by Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, despite assurances to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that aid would flow through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

“That flour has not moved the way that we had expected would move and we expect that Israel will follow through on its commitment to get that flour into Gaza,” Mr Sullivan said.

“But we are asking the question, how do you do something like Rafah and sure all those innocent people are not only are protected physically but can have access to it?”

Mr Sullivan would not say what the Biden administration would do if Israel pressed forward with its military campaign in Rafah.

The comments come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to launch “powerful action” in Rafah after allowing civilians to leave, his government said on Wednesday.

Mr Netanyahu said he wants to press on with the war until Hamas, the group that attacked Israel on October 7, is eradicated.

But Israeli bombardments of the tiny coastal enclave by air, land and sea have killed more than 28,500 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians.

The Biden administration has strongly supported Israel's right to defend itself, but in recent weeks, it has been calling on Mr Netanyahu to conduct more surgical strikes and lower civilian casualties.

Mr Biden, who is running for re-election, has stopped short of condemning Israel's conduct in Gaza or placing conditions on military aid.

Gazans brace for Israeli invasion of Rafah – video

Gazans brace for Israeli invasion of Rafah

Gazans brace for Israeli invasion of Rafah
Updated: February 14, 2024, 7:19 PM