Biden presses Netanyahu on plans for hostage launch, defending civilians in Rafah

President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Sunday for the primary time in additional than three weeks, amid rising U.S. issues over Israel’s plans to launch a significant army operation in Rafah, the place about 1.3 million civilians are sheltering from ongoing combating all through a lot of Gaza.

A lot of the 45-minute dialog targeted on a proposal for an prolonged humanitarian pause within the Israel-Hamas battle that may permit the discharge of hostages nonetheless held by the militant group, in keeping with a senior administration official.

Safety of civilians in Gaza “is a continuing dialogue between us and the Israelis,” at the same time as Biden shares Israel’s aim of defeating Hamas, stated the official, who briefed reporters on the situation of anonymity below guidelines set by the White Home.

How civilians could be spared from an Israeli offensive within the southernmost metropolis in Gaza “is a large query,” the official stated. Most of these in Rafah have moved there to keep away from combating elsewhere within the enclave. They reside in makeshift shelters and are nearly completely supported by the trickle of humanitarian support that’s allowed to transit by way of the Egyptian border.

“The president and the prime minister had a reasonably detailed forwards and backwards on that. I feel our place on it is rather clear,” the official stated. The US wouldn’t assist such an operation until Israel has a plan for civilian safety and sustenance “that was truly deliberate, ready and implementable.”

In his strongest public assertion up to now, Biden advised reporters Thursday that Israel’s army marketing campaign in Gaza, which native well being officers stated has induced practically 28,000 deaths, has been “excessive.” Sunday’s dialog was the primary between the 2 leaders since Jan. 19.

Hours earlier than his telephone name with Biden, Netanyahu advised ABC’s “This Week” that Israel was “doing every thing we are able to to attenuate civilian casualties. … However one factor we’re not going to do is we’re not going to let Hamas emerge victorious.”

Requested how and the place Israel proposed to take care of and transfer greater than 1,000,000 folks to security from Rafah, Netanyahu pointed to “the areas that we’ve cleared, north of Rafah — loads of areas there. However we’re understanding an in depth plan to take action.”

“Those that are saying that in no way ought to we enter Rafah are mainly saying, lose the battle. Preserve Hamas there,” Netanyahu stated. Israel has stated that senior Hamas leaders have moved their operations to southern Gaza to flee Israeli assaults.

The telephone name between the leaders got here upfront of CIA Director William J. Burns’s journey to Cairo on Tuesday to proceed negotiations with Egypt and Qatar on implementing a framework proposal for a pause within the combating to allow the discharge of hostages Hamas remains to be holding inside Gaza. The proposal, despatched two weeks in the past to each side within the battle, requires a six-week cease-fire that may permit civilian hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and a big improve in humanitarian support.

The US hopes is that the preliminary pause would construct momentum for extensions permitting for the discharge of all hostages, together with Israeli army personnel in addition to the our bodies of greater than two dozen of about 1,200 individuals who have been killed by the Hamas fighters who invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, sparking the present battle.

“The framework is just about in place,” the senior administration official stated. “There are actually gaps that have to be closed. A few of them are vital. However there was actual progress over the previous couple of weeks and we’re now searching for to do all we presumably can to capitalize on it.”

Hamas’s response to the proposal, transmitted to negotiators final week, referred to as for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to be launched, together with some with prolonged sentences for vital crimes. It additionally insisted that Israel withdraw all its troops from Gaza earlier than discussions on a second-phase launch may start. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv on the time, referred to as a few of Hamas’s calls for “non-starters,” however stated that the response had supplied “house” to work with.

Regardless of Netanyahu’s publicly unfavourable response to the proposal, “the framework just isn’t rejected,” the senior official stated. “There are gaps which have to shut and among the variations are vital. … However in comparison with the place we have been a month in the past, to now, there actually has been vital progress.”

Sketching the paradoxical relationship between a possible Israeli floor offensive in Rafah and the prospects for combating pause, the official stated “you’ll not get a hostage deal until Hamas is below vital strain. … It’s one thing the Israelis inform us on a regular basis. It’s one thing that we agree with.”

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