US estimates Israel has massed enough troops to launch full-scale incursion into Rafah, officials say

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Smoke billows during Israeli airstrikes in East Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on May 13, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.



CNN

The Biden administration has estimated that Israel has enough troops on the border Rafah City in Gaza A full-scale infiltration should be moved forward in the coming days, but it is currently unclear whether a final decision has been made to take such action directly against senior US officials. President Joe BidenTwo senior executives told CNN.

One official also warned that Israel is nowhere close to preparing enough, including building infrastructure related to food, health and shelter, ahead of the evacuation of the more than one million Gazans currently living in Rafah.

If Israel were to launch a major ground operation into Rafah, it would defy months of U.S. warnings to abandon a full-scale assault on the populous city. Biden himself warned that In the most outspoken terms last week, he told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the U.S. would stop sending some additional weapons if Israel took such a step.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the president had been clear that he would not provide some offensive weapons for such an operation. “It has not happened yet.”

As the war enters its eighth month, US officials are increasingly questioning Israel’s approach to the war, including publicly suggesting that it is unlikely to achieve its stated objective of destroying Hamas and removing its leadership.

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On Monday, Kurt Campbell, the State Department’s number two official, said there were apparent tensions between the two countries over “what the doctrine of victory is.”

“Sometimes when we listen closely to Israeli leaders, they often talk about the idea of ​​some kind of overwhelming victory, total victory, on the battlefield. “I don’t think we believe that’s possible or possible,” Campbell said of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated references to “total victory.” Reason,” Campbell said at the NATO Youth Summit co-hosted by the Aspen Institute.

Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken warned on Sunday that “going backwards into Rafah” could have dire consequences.

“Israel is on the path to having a rebellion with a more armed Hamas, or if it leaves, a vacuum filled with chaos, filled with anarchy, filled with Hamas,” Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. ”

Although the United States believes that Israel cannot completely destroy Hamas, the administration believes that Israel has achieved many of its initial war objectives. State Department spokesman Matt Miller said last week that Hamas has “deteriorated significantly.”

“Their capability has been significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated, by the attacks they carried out on October 7,” he said. “They couldn’t mount an attack of that magnitude today.”

“Their underground weapons manufacturing facilities have been dismantled. Much of their battalion leadership in northern and central Gaza was eliminated. So Israel has largely achieved its military objectives,” he continued.

It is unclear whether senior Hamas leaders are in Rafah, but the United States continues to help Israel eliminate as many senior members as possible, including providing significant intelligence assistance in efforts to locate individuals including Yahya Shinwar. Hamas leader in Gaza.

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While Biden continues to call for a temporary cease-fire and hostage-release deal between Israel and Hamas, according to a senior administration official, senior U.S. officials have not gone so far as to urge Israel to make a permanent end to the fighting privately, according to a senior administration official. However, the Biden administration has been increasing pressure on Israel to begin focusing more enthusiastically on post-war Gaza projects — so far, with little effect.

Israel’s lack of interest in the so-called “birthday” plans was a source of growing frustration for Biden advisers, according to one senior administration official, who went so far as to describe Israel’s attitude as trusting the position. -Bor Gaza is a problem someone else has to figure out.

Publicly and privately, the official said, Israel has not offered clear views on two key questions: post-war administration and who will oversee the security of the Strip whenever the war eventually ends.

Blinken publicly called on Israel over the weekend to get more involved in developing a plan for a post-war Gaza. So far, engagement has been very low, Blinken said.

“We’ve been working for many, many weeks to develop important plans for security, for governance, for reconstruction. We haven’t seen that coming from Israel,” Blinken said on CBS. We want to make sure that Gaza cannot be ruled by Hamas again.

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