newsIsrael at War

US to back Rafah op in exchange for Israel dropping major Iran strike—report

Biden had reportedly considered conditioning military aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves forward with its conquest of the last Hamas stronghold.

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, April 6, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, April 6, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Unnamed Egyptian officials told the Qatari Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news outlet on Wednesday that the United States has agreed to back an Israeli operation in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah in exchange for Jerusalem forgoing a major strike on Iran.

Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported on Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had backtracked on a pre-approved military response to Iran’s massive drone and missile attack due to pressure by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Biden reportedly told Netanyahu during a phone call on Saturday that Washington would not participate in nor support an Israeli retaliatory attack.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu reiterated that the Hamas battalions in Rafah will be defeated, even though most Israeli ground forces had been withdrawn from Gaza after six months of war, leaving only one battalion left in the Strip.

“After what [Hamas] has done [on Oct. 7], it will not do this again. Neither will it exist,” the premier said.

Biden told Netanyahu last month that he would not support a major military offensive against Hamas in Rafah. Instead, the White House favors a limited operation aimed at high-value targets and securing the Gaza-Egypt border.

Biden had reportedly considered conditioning military aid to Israel if Jerusalem moves forward with its conquest of the last Hamas stronghold of Rafah.

Following the IDF’s withdrawal of almost all ground forces from Gaza on April 7, the army shifted into a new phase in the war, which last week saw forces enter the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya as well as Nuseirat in the central Strip.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said that the decision to withdraw troops was made in preparation for the looming offensive in Rafah, where Hamas’s final battalions are concentrated and where the senior leadership and remaining hostages are believed to be.

Gallant on Monday evening held a briefing to discuss “a series of measures to be taken in preparation for operations in Rafah, with an emphasis on the evacuation of civilians and the expansion of activities related to the delivery of food and medical equipment to Gaza,” according to his office.

On Wednesday, Gallant vowed to fight Iran’s ongoing attempts to foment violence in the Jewish state during a visit to the Binyamin region of southern Samaria.

“It starts in Tehran, reaching Beirut, Damascus, Judea and Samaria and Gaza. Iran’s wicked hand can be seen everywhere,” said the defense minister, vowing to “cut off these cruel hands wherever they are.”

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