In Reversal, Israel Sending Delegation To White House After “Bibi Made A Mistake”

Israel’s military has stepped up its airstrikes on the southern Gaza city Rafah in the last two days, on Wednesday bombing at least four homes, raising fears that the planned ground assault is imminent, despite the UN Security Council having just issued an official call for immediate ceasefire.

Gaza health officials said that one of these airstrikes killed eleven people from a single family, as cited in Reuters. One local eyewitness, Jamil Abu Houri, described that “The bombing has increased, and they have threatened us with an incursion, and they say that have been given the green light for the Rafah incursion. Where is the Security Council?”

While UNSC resolutions calling for ceasefire tend to be more symbolic than having real immediate impact, the formal resolution definitely ratcheted the pressure on Israel, and created tension with the White House given that it was the US abstention which allowed it to pass in the first place.

As for the timing of a ground invasion of Rafah, regional media has cited Israeli military sources who say it will begin soon after the Muslim fasting season Ramadan is finished:

The pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar daily, citing Egyptian sources who were said to have been in contact with Israel Defense Forces officials, reported that the expected offensive would come after Eid al-Fitr — the three-day holiday that follows Ramadan and ends around April 12 — or in early May at the latest.

The ground incursion inside the last bastion of Hamas in the Gaza Strip would last from four to eight weeks, the sources said, and would be accompanied by an evacuation of the civilian population sheltering in Rafah, which amounts to about 1.5 million people, toward the center of the Strip along specific routes and at specific times, announced to civilians in each area of the city in advance.

The Monday UNSC ceasefire resolution had resulted in PM Netanyahu canceling a top Israeli delegation’s expected visit to the White House this week. The Biden administration slammed the move as an “overreaction”.

On Thursday Netanyahu has reversed course, apparently. “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to send two top Israeli officials to Washington as early as next week for talks about a possible military operation in Rafah,” officials told Axios.

“The Prime Minister’s office has agreed to reschedule the meeting dedicated to Rafah,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced, citing the need for “urgent” discussion on Rafah. According to more from Axios:

A U.S. official told Axios cancelling the trip and the rhetoric around it was “an unnecessary drama on Netanyahu’s part.” A senior Israeli official agreed and said: “Bibi made a mistake.” She said: “We are now working on a convenient date that will work for both sides.”

Starting early this month President Biden had issued a ‘red line’ for the first time over Rafah, warning Israel against attacking the southern enclave which is still packed with over one million internally displaced refugees. Washington has repeatedly called on Israel to facilitate a mass exodus of civilians before any assault takes place. But Israeli officials say the military must go in to eradicate Hamas.


Zero Hedge

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