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US warns Israel over southern Gaza displacements

US President Joe Biden and US First Lady Jill Biden walk to board Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews
— Washington (AFP)

US President Joe Biden has warned Israel that its expected offensive in southern Gaza must avoid the kind of mass displacement of civilians seen during the military's pummeling of the Palestinian territory's north, US officials said.

Israel has said it will continue its war on Hamas after an ongoing temporary truce expires, but senior US administration officials told reporters the coming offensive must be "maximally deconflicted" and avoid hitting UN shelters, hospitals, power and water sites.

"You cannot have the sort of scale of displacement that took place in the north, replicated in the south," one US official told journalists late Monday, speaking on condition that the briefing be reported only Tuesday.

"It's very important that the conduct of the Israeli campaign when it moves to the south must be done in a way that is, to a maximum extent, not designed to produce significant further displacement of persons."

The official added: "From the president down we have reinforced this in a very clear way for the government of Israel."

Israel had been "receptive" to the warnings, the official said.

An estimated 1.7 million people in Gaza have been displaced by the offensive Israel launched in response to the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, according to the United Nations.

Israel says 1,200 people were killed and around 250 kidnapped in the attacks.

Israel's retaliatory ground and air operation in the Gaza Strip has killed almost 15,000 people, mostly civilians, according to the territory's Hamas government.

Three US military aid flights bringing aid for Gaza start arriving in Egypt on Tuesday and Washington has said it is trying to push as much aid in as possible during the truce.

Biden has strongly backed US ally Israel but his administration has increasingly warned that too many Palestinians are being killed.

US officials have however said they expect Israel to continue on its mission to destroy Hamas after the truce, currently in its fifth day, expires.

The Israeli campaign "has to be conducted in a way that is maximally deconflicted" to avoid "humanitarian sites, to hospitals, other facilities including the many UN supported shelters" in southern Gaza, the US official said.

The warning came as US and Israeli intelligence chiefs arrived in Doha to discuss the "next phase" of a deal between Hamas and Israel in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meanwhile pay his third wartime visit to the Middle East this week.