Israel battles regrouped Hamas in northern Gaza; U.S. warns Rafah assault won’t eliminate militants

Blinken said that instead of focusing on an assault on Rafah, Israel should prioritize presenting a credible post-war plan for Gaza.

“We’ve been talking to them about a much better way of getting an enduring result, enduring security,” said Blinken, who spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday in a call reiterating U.S. opposition to “a major military ground operation in Rafah,” according to the State Department.

In separate comments on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” Blinken said the Biden administration believes Israel needs to “get out of Gaza.”

His comments came amid mounting splits between the two close allies over Israel’s handling of its deadly offensive in Gaza.

Talks for a new cease-fire deal have seemingly broken down, and President Joe Biden threatened last week to halt the shipment of certain arms to Israel should it launch a full-scale assault on Rafah.

Nearly 360,000 people have fled the city since Israel ordered a partial evacuation a week ago and sent tanks in, according to the United Nations.

That led to the closing of two main border crossings into the Palestinian enclave, sparking outcry from doctors and aid groups, while officials warned Monday that the health system was on the verge of collapsing due to dwindling supplies of food and fuel.

“We are only a few hours away from the collapse of the health system in the Gaza Strip as a result of the failure to bring in the fuel needed to operate electricity generators in hospitals, ambulances, and transport employees,” the Gaza health ministry said.

The Israel Defense Forces said last week the Kerem Shalom crossing — where four IDF soldiers had been killed in a Hamas mortar attack — had reopened and announced Sunday the opening of a separate crossing in northern Gaza, the “Western Erez” crossing, in coordination with the U.S.

The Palestinian Crossings Authority has disputed claims that Kerem Shalom has been open in recent days, while a senior U.N. official told NBC News that while it was technically open, it has been extremely difficult for humanitarian organizations to reach and distribute aid entering through the crossing.

“The UN is only able to collect very limited types of aid under very challenging circumstances,” said Georgios Petropoulos, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) mission in Gaza. The Rafah Crossing, the main lifeline for humanitarian aid into Gaza, has been closed since it was seized by Israeli forces on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile northern Gaza has been isolated for months, with the head of the World Food Programme telling NBC News earlier this month that she believes there is a “full-blown famine” in the area.

Yet despite the toll of Israel’s military operation on civilians in Gaza, Hamas appeared far from beaten.

The IDF said Sunday its forces had launched an operation around the Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza after issuing calls for civilians to “temporarily evacuate” the area. The IDF said it was acting on intelligence regarding “attempts by Hamas to reassemble its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area.”

The IDF said the assault was unfolding alongside military action in the area of Zeitoun in Gaza City as its troops also pushed deeper into Rafah.

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