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Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defence Minister Gallant tells Washington

May 20, 2024 at 5:09 pm

Following the Israeli army’s ground incursions into certain neighbourhoods east of Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinians residing in the area continue to migrate from the eastern neighbourhoods of the city towards the west of Khan Yunis on May 9, 2024 [Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

Israel intends to broaden its military operation in Rafah, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, on Monday, told a senior aide to US President, Joe Biden, who has warned against major action in the southern Gazan city that may risk mass civilian casualties.

Israel describes Rafah, which abuts the Gaza Strip’s border with the Egyptian Sinai, as the last stronghold of Hamas, whose governing and combat capabilities it has been trying to dismantle during the more than seven-month-old war.

After weeks of public disagreements with Washington over the Rafah planning, Israel on 6 May ordered Palestinian civilians to evacuate parts of the city and began troop and tank incursions.

“We are committed to broadening the ground operation in Rafah to the end of dismantling Hamas and recovering the hostages,” a statement from Gallant’s office quoted him as telling visiting US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Israel believes dozens of hostages from the cross-border Hamas rampage on 7 October are being held in Rafah.

Western powers and Egypt have voiced concern for the fate of hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering there, despite Israeli assurances about humanitarian safeguards.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said on Monday that it estimated 810,000 people had fled Rafah since 6 May – potentially more than half of the city’s wartime population.

There was no immediate US comment on the Gallant talks.

The statement from Gallant’s office said he “presented to (National Security) Adviser Sullivan the provisions Israel implemented for evacuating the population from the Rafah area and for setting up the appropriate humanitarian response”.

READ: Threat from Israel operations preventing Rafah Crossing aid deliveries, says Egypt