WORLD

Austin calls on Israel to protect civilians before any operation in Rafah

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stressed in a phone call with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant yesterday, Thursday, the necessity of protecting civilians and ensuring the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid before any possible military operation in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.

Austin and Gallant also reviewed the latest efforts to secure the release of detainees in Gaza, and discussed the progress the United States has made in establishing a naval dock to increase aid to the Strip.

Before that, Gallant said that more forces would be sent to the ground operation in Rafah.

He added in a speech from the border with Gaza that the Israeli army destroyed a number of tunnels in the region, and that the resources of the Hamas movement were being closed successively, according to him.

Biden’s efforts

This comes at a time when the White House spoke – Thursday – about efforts by US President Joe Biden to reach a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and an exchange of prisoners between Hamas and Israel.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan mentioned this during his meeting the day before yesterday, Wednesday, with ambassadors and heads of missions from 17 countries that have detainees in the Gaza Strip, according to a statement issued by the White House yesterday, Thursday.

Sullivan said that Biden is holding talks in this regard with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The meeting was attended by diplomats from the United States, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Sullivan confirmed to the ambassadors that Biden would engage with Netanyahu, the Emir of Qatar, and the Egyptian President in talks to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

The attendees discussed sending a collective call to Hamas to immediately release the detainees in Gaza and discuss ways to end the crisis, according to the same source.

With the mediation of Qatar, Egypt, and the United States, indirect negotiations have been faltering for months between the Palestinian factions in Gaza and Israel, to reach an agreement to exchange prisoners and stop the war that broke out on October 7, 2023.

The Israeli army continues its devastating war on Gaza, which has left tens of thousands of martyrs and wounded, most of them children and women, which necessitated the trial of Tel Aviv before the International Court of Justice on the grounds of committing genocide.