newsIsrael at War

US presents Israel with alternatives to Rafah battle

The plan includes a joint U.S.-Israeli Gaza operations center and targeted raids on Hamas in the city.

Palestinian terrorists patrol in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 1, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinian terrorists patrol in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, March 1, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

The Americans have presented their alternative to a full-scale IDF conquest of Gaza’s Rafah city, Kan News reported on Saturday night.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi in a recent conversation that “we will not accept any more thousands of innocent deaths in Rafah, as in Gaza [City] and Khan Yunis,” according to the report.

The Biden administration opposes a military invasion of Rafah, where more than a million Gazans have sheltered during the war, causing friction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Instead, the highest-ranking military officer in the U.S. offered Halevi an alternative plan for Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion in Gaza. According to Israeli estimates, the final four Hamas battalions are concentrated in the city, totaling roughly 3,000 terrorists.

The alternative plan includes technological advances to secure the Gaza-Egypt border, a major source of arms smuggling, including border closures and using cameras and sensors.

It also includes the isolation and encirclement of Rafah by Israeli forces, with targeted raids based on intelligence information.

Finally, the plan involves the establishment of a joint U.S.-Israeli command center to coordinate activities in the Gaza Strip.

Smoke rises after Israeli airstrikes seen from Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 31, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

The conversation between Brown and Halevi took place last week during a visit to the Pentagon led by Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss the pending Rafah operation, which Netanyahu has already approved.

According to Kan, Gallant presented the Americans with a detailed evacuation plan for Rafah’s noncombatants, involving moving the population to areas in the southern and central Strip. Netanyahu has ordered 40,000 tents from China for this purpose and the IDF has already begun isolating Rafah.

According to the Kan report, the White House is also concerned that Israel has not made plans for who will rule Gaza the day after Hamas is defeated. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met earlier this month with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where a proposal was made for Arab forces to be stationed in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

Blinken Israel
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters at Ben-Gurion Airport, March 22, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

An Arab diplomat familiar with the details of the Blinken meeting told Kan that the proposal took place as part of an effort “to launch a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and to implement the two-state solution.”

Brown also said last week that Israel did not receive all of the weapons and parts that it had requested from the United States.

“Although we support them in terms of obtaining various capabilities, they did not get everything they asked for,” he said. “Part of that is because they asked for things that we don’t have the ability to provide right now, or we’re not willing to provide right now.”

The Biden administration recently authorized billions of dollars in bombs and fighter jets to Israel, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The arms packages included more than 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs, according to Pentagon and State Department officials.

This month, the State Department also authorized the transfer to Israel of 25 F-35A fighter jets and engines worth roughly $2.5 billion, U.S. officials said.

IAF F-35 stealth fighter aircraft fly in Israeli airspace. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Delivery of both the bombs and the fighter jets and engines was approved by Congress years ago but had not yet been fulfilled.

The Pentagon later clarified Brown’s remarks, “highlighting the issue’s sensitivity,” the Post reported.

“We assess U.S. stockpiles and any possible impact on our own readiness to determine our ability to provide the requested aid,” Navy Capt. Jereal Dorsey, a spokesman for the general, said.

“There is no change in U.S. policy. The United States continues to provide security assistance to our ally Israel as they defend themselves from Hamas,” he added.

A White House official reiterated to the Post, “We have continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself. Conditioning aid has not been our policy.”

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