Biden speaks with Netanyahu as Israeli invasion of Rafah appears imminent

Written by on May 6, 2024

Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, a White House official told ABC News.

The call comes as an Israeli invasion of Rafah appears imminent, despite opposition from the United States and other nations due to concerns over the humanitarian crisis in the region.

Israel Defense Forces on Monday urged 100,000 people in the southern Gaza city to evacuate and dropped flyers warning of danger. More than 1.4 million Palestinians are thought to be sheltering in Rafah in the wake of Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

In their conversation on Monday, Biden was likely to reiterate his administration’s objection to a large-scale offensive — as he did the last time he spoke with Netanyahu on April 28.

“We don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters last week. “Certainly, we don’t want to see operations that haven’t factored in the safety and security of those 1.5 million folks trying to seek refuge down there. And we conveyed that to our Israeli counterparts certainly privately, absolutely publicly, and nothing’s changed about that.”

The White House also said last week it had not seen a comprehensive plan for protecting civilians if Israel’s military were to move into Rafah — a plan U.S. officials have repeatedly called for.

Still, Netanyahu has pledged to go into Rafah in order to root out the Hamas terrorist group.

“We will destroy the Hamas battalions there, we will complete all the objectives of the war, including the repatriation of all our hostages,” Netanyahu said last week.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday that Israel believed it had “no choice” but to forge ahead with an offensive in Rafah.

Strikes have intensified in Rafah and surrounding areas in recent days.

At least four Israeli soldiers were killed and 10 others were injured in a rocket attack on the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Sunday that was orchestrated by Hamas, the IDF said. In response, Israel closed the crossing, one critical to delivering humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed in IDF strikes on Rafah on Sunday, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Israel’s military said it continued strikes on Monday on “terror targets” and military structures.

Meanwhile, cease-fire talks in Cairo over the weekend stalled with no resolution. Hamas is demanding a permanent end to the war in exchange for any hostage deal — something Israel has said it won’t accept.

ABC News’ Alexandra Hutzler and Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report.

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