Kamala Harris warns Rafah offensive would be a "huge mistake" for Israel in Gaza

Parkland, Florida - The US government is not ruling out consequences for Israel if it goes ahead with plans for a ground offensive in Rafah, plans that the White House, Israel's main backer, strongly opposes.

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to ABC News about Israel after a press conference about gun safety measures at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to ABC News about Israel after a press conference about gun safety measures at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  © DREW ANGERER / AFP

"I am ruling out nothing," Vice President Kamala Harris said in an interview broadcast by ABC News on Sunday when asked by a journalist whether there would be consequences from the US if the Israeli operation in the overcrowded city in the south of Gaza goes ahead.

"We have been clear in multiple conversations and in every way that any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake," Harris said.

She did not give details of what such consequences might entail but said "we're going to take it one step at a time, but we've been very clear in terms of our perspective on whether or not that should happen."

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The US and other Israeli allies, despite their support for Israel's campaign in Gaza which it says is aimed at eliminating Palestinian extremist organization Hamas, have been critical of a planned offensive into Rafah on the Egyptian border.

Will Israel invade Rafah in Gaza?

The rubble of a building destroyed in overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah on Sunday, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
The rubble of a building destroyed in overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah on Sunday, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.  © MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

Israel's Rafah ground invasion would target the densely crowded area in which some 1.5 million of Gaza's roughly 2.2 million people have been seeking refuge from Israeli bombardment elsewhere in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been stressing for days that the army had plans to bring the people to safety ahead of a ground offensive, but with large parts of Gaza now virtually rendered uninhabitable, Harris says "there's nowhere for those folks to go."

"Let me tell you something, I have studied the maps," Harris said. "We're looking at about a million and a half people in Rafah who are there because they were told to go there, most of them."

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Israel plans to send a delegation of senior officials to Washington at the beginning of next week to discuss US ideas to fight Hamas in Rafah without a full-scale ground invasion.

Meanwhile, Israeli military operations continued its operations again on Sunday at the al-Shifa hospital, and said "troops apprehended approximately 480 terrorists affiliated with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations, and have located weapons and terrorist infrastructure in the hospital."

The health ministry in the Gaza Strip said Sunday that at least another 84 people had been killed over the previous 24 hours, raising the total death toll in the territory during nearly six months of war to 32,226.

Palestinian children badly wounded in the latest bombardment were rescued from the rubble of collapsed buildings and rushed for urgent medical care to Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah.

A day earlier, UN chief Ant├│nio Guterres called for a surge of aid into the besieged territory he said was stalked by "horror and starvation".

Cover photo: DREW ANGERER / AFP

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