update deskIsrael at War

Harris leaves door open for consequences if IDF enters Rafah

"We have been clear in multiple conversations and in every way that any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake," says the U.S. vice president.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris looks on as President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a reception for new members of Congress on Jan. 24, 2023, in the East Room of the White House. Credit: Erin Scott/White House.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris looks on as President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a reception for new members of Congress on Jan. 24, 2023, in the East Room of the White House. Credit: Erin Scott/White House.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Sunday that a prospective Israeli military operation in Gaza’s Rafah city would be a “huge mistake” and refused to rule out consequences should Jerusalem fail to heed the Biden administration’s warnings.

“We have been clear in multiple conversations and in every way that any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake,” Harris said in an interview on ABC News‘s “This Week.”

“I have studied the maps. There’s nowhere for those folks to go. We’re looking at about a million-and-a-half people in Rafah who are there because they were told to go there, most of them,” she added.

When asked if there could be consequences if Israel presses ahead with plans to invade Hamas’s last remaining stronghold, Harris said: “We’re going to take it one step at a time, but we’ve been very clear in terms of our perspective on whether or not that should happen.”

When pressed further on the matter, she added: “I am ruling out nothing.”

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Israeli forces would enter Rafah with or without support from the United States.

“There were times we agreed with our friends, and there were times we did not agree with them,” the premier said. “Ultimately, we always did what was necessary for our safety, and we will do so this time as well.”

During a phone call with Netanyahu on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that he could 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.

Netanyahu confirmed on Wednesday he had already approved the Israel Defense Forces’ operational plans for Rafah and said he would “soon” green-light an outline for the evacuation of noncombatants from the city.

On Friday, Netanyahu reiterated the message during a meeting in Tel Aviv with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“I told [Blinken] that I hope we would [go into Rafah] with U.S. support but if necessary, we will do it alone,” he said.

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