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Israel to take US concerns over Rafah offensive into account: White House

Israel will take “into account” US concerns over its planned offensive in the crowded city of Rafah, where more than a million civilians are sheltering from Israel’s war on Gaza, the White House said Monday.

Tensions have risen between Israel and its chief backer the United States over the heavy civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip, and especially over Israeli plans to send ground forces into the southern city.

But the two sides had a “constructive engagement on Rafah” during two hours of video conference talks, attended by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the White House said in a statement.

“The US side expressed its concerns with various courses of action in Rafah. The Israeli side agreed to take these concerns into account and to have follow up discussions,” the statement added.

The Israeli side was chaired by National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Minster for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, according to the White House.

Follow-up discussions will include in-person meetings as early as next week, the statement added.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war erupted with Hamas’ October 7 attack, which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. Hamas says its attack came in response to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and occupation of Palestinian territories.

Israel’s unprecedented air and ground campaign has killed at least 32,845 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Many civilians have fled to Rafah to escape the fighting.

Israel had agreed to send a delegation to Washington for discussions on its Rafah plans, but canceled the trip after the United States last week declined to veto a UN Security Council ceasefire call, abstaining instead, which allowed it to pass.

Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists that the goal of Monday’s meeting had been the same as that of the canceled delegation visit.

The aim had been to “understand what their plans are for any type of operation within Rafah, to understand how they’re going to move or conduct operations with a very concentrated population that’s there, over a million people,” Singh told journalists.

Source: The New Arab