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Israel’s Gallant kicks off US visit with weapons, Rafah on agenda

Washington still seeks to avert an Israeli operation in Rafah, even as Netanyahu cancels a delegation of top advisers over the US abstention on a UN Security Council vote.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) talks with Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant (L) as part of their meeting in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9, 2024, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

WASHINGTON — Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s met with top White House and State Department officials on Monday, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a delegation of two of his own top advisers to Washington amid a widening rift between the two allies over Israel's war in Gaza.

Biden administration officials and Gallant will discuss alternatives to target Hamas in Rafah short of a full-blown military invasion, White House National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said Monday, as Washington seeks to avert mass harm to the 1.4 million civilians sheltered there. 

“I have no doubt that in those discussions, we'll have ample opportunities to talk with him about about what's going on with their planning for Rafah, as well as what's going on inside negotiations to get all the hostages out,” Kirby said. 

Why it matters: US officials had originally planned to discuss alternatives to a Rafah invasion with Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, who were due at the White House on Wednesday at Biden's request.

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