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Israeli Defense Minister Says the Military will Expand Operations into Rafah

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the military would expand its operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in talks Monday with a U.S. envoy.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Gallant and the Israeli military leadership in Tel Aviv. Sullivan’s visit comes two weeks into the military’s foray into Rafah, where troops have been battling Hamas fighters and escalating bombardment.

The Biden administration has opposed a full-fledged invasion of Rafah because of fears for the civilian population. So far Israeli forces have mainly been operating in eastern parts of the city, but the fighting has already triggered an exodus of more than 810,000 Palestinians, according to the U.N.

“I emphasized to him (Sullivan) Israel’s duty to expand the ground operation in Rafah, to dismantle Hamas and to return the hostages,” Gallant said in a post on X.

In his visit, Sullivan was also discussing postwar plans for Gaza at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces criticism from the other members of his War Cabinet. Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz has threatened to leave the government if a plan is not created by June 8 that includes an international administration for postwar Gaza.

Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli airstrike on a residential building in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, Gaza Strip, Sunday, May 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ismael Abu Dayyah)

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting some 250.

The war has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Around 80% of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians have been displaced within the territory, often multiple times.

Currently:

— Senior Republican close to Trump criticizes Biden’s arms holdup in speech to Israeli parliament.

— Pro-Palestinian protesters set up a new encampment at Drexel University.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s the latest:

ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MILITARY WILL EXPAND OPERATIONS INTO RAFAH
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the military would expand its operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in talks Monday with a U.S. envoy.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan met Monday with Gallant and the Israeli military leadership in Tel Aviv. Sullivan’s visit comes two weeks into the military’s foray into Rafah, where troops have been battling Hamas fighters and escalating bombardment.

The Biden administration has opposed a full-fledged invasion of Rafah because of fears for the civilian population. So far Israeli forces have mainly been operating in eastern parts of the city, but the fighting has already triggered an exodus of more than 810,000 Palestinians, according to the U.N.

“I emphasized to him (Sullivan) Israel’s duty to expand the ground operation in Rafah, to dismantle Hamas and to return the hostages,” Gallant said in a post on X.

In his visit, Sullivan was also discussing postwar plans for Gaza at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces criticism from the other members of his War Cabinet. Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz has threatened to leave the government if a plan is not created by June 8 that includes an international administration for postwar Gaza.

On Sunday, Sullivan held talks with Netanyahu to discuss an ambitious U.S. plan for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel and help the Palestinian Authority govern Gaza in exchange for a path to eventual statehood. Netanyahu has rejected the creation of a Palestinian state.

Sullivan met Monday with Gantz, whose office said the two discussed “prospects for advancing normalization with Saudi Arabia.”

SUSPECTED ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES HIT NEAR SYRIA’S HOMS
DAMASCUS — Suspected Israeli airstrikes hit areas in the vicinity of the city of Homs in central Syria on Monday, pro-government media and a war monitor said.

One person was killed and five others were injured, the pro-government Sham FM radio station said. There was no official confirmation of the strikes.

The U.K.-based opposition war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the strikes, which it said were the 40th time Israel had hit inside Syria since the beginning of the year. The observatory said the strikes hit next to a gas station south of Homs, in an area used by pro-Iranian militias, and at a site next to a school southwest of Homs, near the Syrian-Lebanese border.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials. Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but rarely acknowledges them. When it does, it has said that it is seeking to stop Iran from expanding its foothold in Syria.

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