Skip to main content

US softens objections to looming Israeli offensive in Rafah

Despite President Joe Biden’s charge that Israel’s conduct in Gaza has been “over the top," the Biden administration has threatened no consequences for the Israeli military's impending assault on Rafah.
Demonstrators gather with signs during a protest by Israeli left-wing activists against the war in the Gaza Strip and the planned ground operation in Rafah, on Feb. 13, 2024.

WASHINGTON — The White House says Israel needs a "credible plan" to protect Rafah's civilians before launching its offensive there, days after saying the planned Israeli push into Gaza's crowded border city could spell a humanitarian "disaster."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said dislodging Palestinian militant group Hamas will require the Israeli military to conduct a “massive operation” in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza where an estimated 1.4 million people — more than half the territory’s population — are seeking shelter after four months of war.

Netanyahu said Friday he ordered the military to draw up plans for evacuating civilians from Rafah, where the United Nations and international aid groups have warned against an Israeli ground offensive they say would cause further humanitarian catastrophe. UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said Tuesday an invasion of Rafah would "lead to a slaughter" and put "an already fragile humanitarian operation at death's door." 

Last week, White House described Israel’s anticipated offensive as a potential “disaster” for civilians seeking refuge in Rafah, with spokesperson John Kirby saying the operation is "not something that we would support" unless there was "full consideration of protecting civilians at that scale in Gaza."

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.