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Jake Sullivan to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel amid regional tension

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan's trip comes as the Biden administration is urging Israel to consider alternatives to a full-scale invasion of Rafah.
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 24: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on April 24, 2024 in Washington, DC. Sullivan fielded questions about legislation President Joe Biden signed that morning for $80 billion in foreign aid, abortion arguments at the Supreme Court and other topics. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel this weekend, Axios reported Tuesday, as the Israeli military pushed deeper into Rafah. 

Citing a senior US official, Axios reported that the Biden administration and Israel reached an understanding that Israel’s operations in the crowded Gazan city of Rafah would not be "significantly expanded" before Sullivan's visit. 

US officials say Israel has yet to provide a credible plan for protecting civilians in Rafah during a full-scale invasion of the city along Egypt’s border. Nearly 360,000 people have fled Rafah since Israel issued partial evacuation orders for the city’s eastern neighborhoods early last week, according to the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees. 

Sullivan told reporters Monday that the United States was working with Israel on a “better way to ensure the defeat of Hamas,” including in Rafah.

Reflecting on the United States’ own “painful experience” with counterinsurgency campaigns in the Middle East, Sullivan called for Israel to devise a political plan for the coastal enclave, which Hamas has ruled since 2007. 

“Military pressure is necessary but not sufficient to fully defeat Hamas,” Sullivan said. “If Israel’s efforts are not accompanied by a political plan for the future of Gaza and the Palestinian people, the terrorists will keep coming back.”

Sullivan had a trip planned to Riyadh last month but postponed it due to a "cracked rib," White House national security spokesman John Kirby said at the time.