Pentagon tells Israel to reconsider Rafah invasion after warnings of "catastrophic" effects

Washington DC - US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called on his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant to consider alternatives to an all-out assault on the city of Rafah in the south of Gaza.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (l.) has urged Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to reconsider the planned ground invasion of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (l.) has urged Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to reconsider the planned ground invasion of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.  © ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

The Defense Department said in a statement that Austin had told Gallant in a phone call on Wednesday that Israel needed to consider options other than a major ground operation in Rafah.

Austin also reportedly reiterated the urgent need to do more to protect the civilian population, to ensure the safety of US military personnel establishing a temporary port on the Gaza coast, and to expand the transport of aid by land.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear on Wednesday that the preparations for such an offensive would still take some time. However, he remains adamant in his plans to assault the city where more than a million refugees have taken shelter.

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A leaked US diplomatic cable from early March acknowledged such an operation would have "catastrophic consequences."

US drops opposition to Gaza ceasefire, but continues arming Israel

Smoke plumes billow after Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Smoke plumes billow after Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.  © SAID KHATIB / AFP

In view of the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and a death toll numbering close to 32,000, Washington's tone towards the Israeli leadership has become harsher in recent weeks.

In a break with the previously ironclad diplomatic support, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Wednesday that the US was circulating a draft UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

At the same time, the US continues to support Israel with billions of dollars, a considerable portion of which goes towards missile defense and other military technology, even as accusations of war crimes and genocide being committed against Palestinians grow deafening.

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A State Department spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that unlike Canada, the US has no intention of suspending arms exports to Israel.

A group of senators led by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders has been urging the Biden administration to reconsider its stance.

Cover photo: ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

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