Israeli, U.S. officials meet virtually on Rafah after Netanyahu scraps delegation to Washington

(Xinhua) 10:01, April 02, 2024

WASHINGTON, April 1 (Xinhua) -- Israeli and U.S. officials met virtually Monday to discuss a possible alternative for a potential ground operation in Rafah by the Israeli military, the White House confirmed.

The virtual meeting was arranged as a substitute for an in-person discussion in Washington featuring the visit by a high-level Israeli delegation, which was scrapped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week in protest of the United States greenlighting a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

"I can confirm that there is a virtual meeting happening today with both U.S. officials, Israeli officials to discuss the situation in Rafah and, obviously, the next steps that we have been hearing that the Israeli government wants to take," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a regular press briefing.

She said it was on Friday that both sides settled with the schedule for the virtual meeting, noting that the United States "wanted to move very quickly on" scheduling such a discussion with Israel.

Reiterating Washington's concern about the devastation an Israeli military operation in Rafah will bring to the over 1 million Palestinian civilians now residing there, Jean-Pierre said that even in the event that Israel sticks with their plan of a ground operation, Israeli officials "have to have this conversation" with their U.S. counterparts and explain "how they're going to move forward."

For its part, Israel is still bent on advancing into Rafah. Netanyahu told a press conference at his office Sunday evening that he had approved an operational plan by the Israeli Defense Force for Rafah.

"We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there," Netanyahu said.

At the White House briefing, Jean-Pierre dodged a follow-up question on whether an in-person meeting between officials of the two countries is possible in the remaining days of the week. "We will have more to share on the next steps," she said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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