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Thursday, May 23, 2024

White House Presses Israel for Rafah Civilian Protection Plan

President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, addressed the United States’ stance on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza during a press briefing on Monday. Despite the commitment to Israel’s defense, Sullivan expressed frustration with the Israeli government’s lack of a plan to ensure the safety of nearly a million Gazans in Rafah in the event of an invasion. He emphasized the need for Israel to align its military actions with a clear political strategy for governing Palestinian territories in the future.

Sullivan highlighted the administration’s efforts to achieve a cease-fire and secure the release of hostages, including Americans held by Hamas. However, he underscored President Biden’s concerns regarding Israel’s potential use of 2,000-pound bombs in densely populated areas like Rafah. While the U.S. continued to provide defensive weapons and other offensive arms, it withheld certain munitions to prevent civilian casualties.

The decision to withhold specific weapons stemmed from fears that their deployment could result in significant civilian harm without clear strategic benefits. Sullivan reiterated the president’s stance, emphasizing the need to avoid launching major military operations in Rafah without a discernible strategic advantage.

Despite increased bombing activities in the vicinity, Sullivan clarified that a large-scale military operation in Rafah had not yet taken place. He emphasized ongoing collaboration with Israel to explore alternative approaches for neutralizing Hamas without endangering civilian lives. However, House Republicans aimed to challenge Biden’s decision to pause the shipment of 2,000-pound bombs through legislative action.

The proposed bill, though symbolic due to the Democratic majority in the Senate, aimed to capitalize on divisions within the Democratic Party regarding arms sales to Israel. Representative Michael McCaul criticized Biden’s policy as detrimental and accused the administration of withholding information from Congress and the public.

Sullivan’s remarks also addressed recent reports suggesting the possible relocation of Yahya Sinwar, a senior Hamas official, from Rafah. While he refrained from confirming intelligence assessments, Sullivan acknowledged that such developments could impact the rationale behind military actions in the area.

Furthermore, Sullivan emphasized the need for Israel to articulate a comprehensive strategy for Gaza’s governance post-conflict. He criticized the current approach for its failure to address long-term political objectives, highlighting concerns about Hamas’s resurgence in previously targeted areas.

The lack of a coherent military-political strategy, according to Sullivan, posed risks of perpetuating instability and allowing Hamas to regain control in Gaza. He stressed the importance of aligning military operations with a clear vision for Palestinian governance to prevent the reemergence of extremist elements.

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