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US and Israeli officials to discuss alternatives to ground assault in Rafah Here's what you need to know

On February 17, Palestinians took refuge in Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. (Credit: Omar Ghatta/Anatolu/Getty Images)

The Biden administration will meet with Israeli officials in Washington “soon” to discuss alternatives to a planned military ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where some 1.5 million people are fleeing the militants. They are fighting in the northern regions.

In a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden said Israel's plans for a major operation in Rafah could be disastrous for Palestinian civilians and called on the Israeli leader to send a delegation of military chiefs to Washington to discuss alternatives.

Netanyahu accepted the request and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the meeting would take place later this week or early next week.

Biden's concerns about Israel's planned attack on Rafah are threefold:

  • The civilians who took refuge in Rafah have nowhere to go safely
  • Rafah is an entry point for critical humanitarian aid

Neighboring Egypt expressed serious concerns about possible military action in the city. At the call, Netanyahu reiterated Israel's commitment to achieving its war goals, including eliminating Hamas and freeing hostages.

Other important events of the conflict are:

'Heavy Clashes' Surround Gaza's Largest Hospital: Hamas's military wing said its fighters engaged in “heavy clashes” with Israeli forces around the al-Shifa medical complex after Israel said it had launched an attack because a Gaza City hospital was being used by senior Hamas officials. terrorists.”

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The health ministry said there were many casualties in the complex, which is sheltering some 30,000 people, and the head of the World Health Organization said “hospitals should never be battlefields”.

Mass arrests in al-Shifa: The IDF said it arrested more than 200 “terror suspects” at Al-Shifa Hospital. One of them was Al Jazeera's Arab correspondent Ismail al-Khol, the network said. A State Department official said the US is aware of the arrest and has asked Israel for more information.

Humanitarian crisis: A report released by the UN's World Food Program warned that prolonged fighting and a lack of humanitarian aid have “imminent famine in the northern governorates between now and May” in Gaza. A top US aid official called it “a terrible milestone” and urged Israel to open more ground routes for aid. According to the WHO and Palestinian officials, increasing numbers of children are dying of hunger and dehydration, and doctors say malnutrition complicates children's recovery from injuries.

Hamas commander dies: An Israeli airstrike killed a top Hamas commander last week, the White House said. The IDF said last week that Marwan Issa was one of the masterminds of the October 7 attack on Israel. On Monday, an IDF spokesman did not confirm the information, but said Israeli forces had struck an underground compound used by senior Hamas officials on March 9. The spokesman said the IDF could not verify whether Issa was killed.

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