President Joe Biden on Sunday sent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a strong message in a crucial diplomatic exchange as he asked for caution in the face of a planned military assault in the heavily populated southern Gazan city of Rafah.
The White House revealed that Biden stressed that before any military action is taken, a detailed strategy must be developed to protect the welfare of the civilian population. Located on the Egyptian border, Rafah has become a lifeline for Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombings that have devastated the Gaza Strip during the four months of fighting with Hamas, which began with the group's Oct. 7 attack.
Many countries around the globe, the United Nations, and the United States are all extremely alarmed about Netanyahu's plans to invade Rafah. With about 1.4 million people living in cramped quarters, many of them struggle to make ends meet in improvised shelters and face acute shortages of necessities like food, water, and medical supplies.
The White House restated Biden's position that any military action in Rafah must be supported by a realistic and workable plan targeted at guaranteeing the protection and aid of the vulnerable inhabitants in a statement that was issued and captured the core of the presidents' conversation.
Excerpts from an interview with Netanyahu that were released on Saturday showed that he was still determined to move on with the Rafah operation and ensure that people requesting evacuation could travel safely. Asked about the resettlement's practicalities, Netanyahu confirmed that work is still being done to develop a comprehensive relocation plan, but he also made references to sites that have been cleared north of Rafah.
The prime minister emphasized the need to confront the Hamas troops that are firmly established in Rafah head-on, describing this kind of action as essential to winning the larger war. The devastating cost of Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7 is estimated to be 1,160, mostly civilian deaths.
The White House rested on the common goal of eliminating the Hamas threat and preserving Israel's long-term security, but also underlined the necessity of taking swift, focused action to improve the supply and distribution of humanitarian aid to innocent Palestinian civilians impacted by the fighting.
Since Biden expressed worries about the ferocity of Israel's military operation in Gaza, calling it "excessive," in statements to the press on Thursday, the Sunday discussion represents the first verified communication between the two leaders.
In the face of rising death tolls the Gaza Health Ministry has announced that over 28,000 people have died, mostly women and children, as the need for a diplomatic settlement to the conflict is pressing on a global scale.