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Biden speaks with Netanyahu as Israel inches closer to Rafah invasion

President Biden on Monday spoke with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reiterating his concerns during the conversation about an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah, even as Israel appeared poise to move forward with such an operation.

Biden “updated the Prime Minister on efforts to secure a hostage deal, including through ongoing talks today in Doha, Qatar,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

“The Prime Minister agreed to ensure the Kerem Shalom crossing is open for humanitarian assistance for those in need. The President reiterated his clear position on Rafah,” the White House said.

Karem Shalom has been a major crossing point between Israel and Gaza for trucks carrying humanitarian aid.

The call came after Israel on Monday began evacuating civilians from parts of Rafah, a populous city in the southern part of Gaza, a sign a military operation could be near.

The White House has urged Israel against sending forces into Rafah for weeks, warning of the potential consequences for civilians in the area in a war that has already left tens of thousands of Palestinians dead. 

But Netanyahu has been adamant about plans to destroy Hamas, the group that controls Gaza and orchestrated the Oct. 7 attacks that killed more than 1,100 Israelis.

Biden has grown increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu in private, and last month suggested the U.S. could reassess its support for Israel moving forward if it did not do more to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.

“We’ve made clear our views about operations in Rafah that could potentially put more than a million innocent people at greater risk. During his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the President again made this clear,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a briefing.

The timing of the call between Biden and Netanyahu came as the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day. The two leaders “discussed the shared commitment of Israel and the United States to remember the six million Jews who were systematically targeted and murdered in the Holocaust, one of the darkest chapters in human history, and to forcefully act against antisemitism and all forms of hate-fueled violence,” the White House said.

Biden is set to deliver remarks on fighting antisemitism on Tuesday, when he will speak at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual Days of Remembrance ceremony.

Updated at 2:39 p.m. EDT

Source: The Hill

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