May 28, 2024

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Officials say the United States assesses that Israel has amassed enough forces to launch a large-scale incursion into Rafah

Officials say the United States assesses that Israel has amassed enough forces to launch a large-scale incursion into Rafah

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Smoke rises during Israeli raids on eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 13, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement.


The Biden administration estimated that Israel had amassed sufficient forces on the edge of the border Rafah city, Gaza to go ahead with a large-scale incursion in the coming days, but senior US officials are currently unsure whether a final decision has been made to carry out such a move in direct defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. President Joe BidenTwo senior administration officials told CNN.

One official also warned that Israel is not yet close to making adequate preparations — including building infrastructure related to food, hygiene and shelter — before potentially evacuating more than a million Gazans currently residing in Rafah.

If Israel continues a large-scale ground operation in Rafah, it will go against months of warnings by the United States to abandon a large-scale attack on the densely populated city. Biden himself Express this warning In his most pointed statement last week, he told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the United States would withhold some additional arms shipments to Israel if it took such a step.

“The president has been clear that he would not provide certain offensive weapons for such an operation should it occur,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House on Monday. “It hasn’t happened yet.”

As the war enters its eighth month, US officials are increasingly questioning Israel’s approach to the war, including publicly indicating that it is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of destroying Hamas and eliminating its leadership.

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Curt Campbell, the No. 2 State Department official, said Monday that there were clear tensions between the two countries over “what the victory theory is.”

“Sometimes when we listen closely to Israeli leaders, they often talk about the idea of ​​achieving some kind of overwhelming victory on the battlefield, complete victory. “I don’t think we think this is likely or possible,” Campbell said, apparently referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s frequent references to “total victory.” “We see that there has to be more of a political solution. That’s one of the reasons the president’s team is engaging in the surrounding area,” Campbell said at the NATO Youth Summit co-hosted by the Aspen Institute.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned on Sunday that a “reckless” approach to Rafah could have dire consequences.

“Israel will likely inherit an insurgency with many Hamas militants, or, if it leaves, a chaotic vacuum, perhaps filled by Hamas,” Blinken said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”

Although the United States believes that Israel will not be able to completely destroy Hamas, the administration believes that Israel has achieved many of its initial goals in the war. State Department spokesman Matt Miller said last week that Hamas had “deteriorated significantly.”

“You have seen that their ability to launch the kind of attacks that they did on October 7 has been significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated,” he said. “They couldn’t launch an attack of this size today.”

Underground weapons production factories have been eliminated. Most of their battalion leaders were eliminated in northern and central Gaza. Consequently, Israel has achieved a large number of its military objectives.”

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It remains unclear whether senior Hamas leaders are in Rafah, but the United States continues to assist Israel in its mission of trying to eliminate as many senior Hamas members as possible, including by providing significant intelligence assistance in trying to track down figures including Including Yahya Al-Sanwar. Hamas leader in Gaza.

While Biden continues to call on Israel and Hamas to reach a temporary ceasefire and hostage release agreement, senior US officials have privately stopped short of urging Israel to consider a permanent cessation of fighting, according to a senior administration official. However, the Biden administration is ramping up pressure on Israel to start focusing more seriously on Gaza’s post-war plans — but to little effect so far.

Israel’s lack of interest in so-called “day after” plans has been a source of growing frustration for Biden’s advisers, according to one senior administration official, who went so far as to describe Israel as demonstrating a believable position. -The Gaza war is a problem that someone else must solve.

This official said, both publicly and privately, Israel has not presented clear views on two key issues: post-war governance and who will oversee Gaza’s security when the war eventually ends.

Blinken publicly called on Israel to engage more seriously in developing a post-war plan for Gaza over the weekend. Blinken said engagement has been largely lacking so far.

“We have been working for several weeks to develop important plans for security, governance and reconstruction. We have not seen that coming from Israel,” Blinken told CBS. “We have worked with Arab countries and others on this plan. We need to see that as well. We have the same goal as “Israel: We want to make sure that Hamas will not be able to rule Gaza again.”

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