US Secretary of State outlines opposition to potential Israeli invasion of Rafah

A major offensive would have “terrible consequences,” the US Secretary of State has said

The US believes that Israel could achieve its military objectives in Gaza without an invasion of the city of Rafah, which Washington will not support, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said. The statement was made on Friday at a news conference following a summit of G7 foreign ministers on the Italian island of Capri.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted his country will conduct a military operation in Rafah, despite concerns over the potential civilian death toll. Members of the Israeli government, including Netanyahu, have maintained that the Jewish state cannot achieve its primary stated goal of defeating the Palestinian militant group Hamas without entering Rafah.

“We believe that a major military operation with a large presence of civilian population would have terrible consequences for that population,” Blinken told journalists. “We have been very clear about this …We cannot support a major military operation in Rafah,” he said.

The US, a key supplier of military aid to Israel, has been expressing concerns that an operation in Rafah would cause significant civilian casualties. Blinken pointed out there are currently around 1.4 million people in the city, which is located next to the Egyptian border, many of whom have been displaced from other parts of Gaza.

“We are committed, as Israel is, to ensuring that Gaza cannot be controlled by Hamas … Making sure that Hamas cannot repeat the events of October 7 … But in terms of major military operations in Rafah, it’s something that we don’t support and we believe that the objective can be achieved by other means,” Blinked stated.

The diplomat insisted that the US had engaged in discussions about Rafah with senior Israeli officials as recently as this week and that such discussions would continue.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said recently that a date had already been set for an operation in Rafah, but declined to reveal exactly when. On Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that two additional brigades will be mobilized for operations in Gaza. The announcement came a week after the Jewish state pulled most of its ground forces out of the Palestinian enclave, in what the military leadership described as preparation for a mission in the city of Rafah.

The ongoing hostilities in Gaza were triggered by a Hamas incursion into southern Israel in October, in which some 1,200 people were killed and hundreds taken hostage. More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed amid the Israeli retaliation, most of them women and children, according to local health authorities.