Blinken: Israel lacks 'credible plan' to safeguard civilians stuck in Rafah

Blinken: Israel lacks 'credible plan' to safeguard civilians stuck in Rafah

Displaced Palestinians travel in a vehicle as they flee Rafah, after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of southern Gaza city, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday.


WASHINGTON--U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said Israel lacked a "credible plan" to protect some 1.4 million Palestinian civilians in Rafah and warned an Israeli attack could create an insurgency by failing to kill all Hamas fighters in the southern Gaza city. "Israel is on a trajectory potentially to inherit an insurgency with many armed Hamas fighters left or if it leaves a vacuum filled by chaos, filled by anarchy and probably refilled by Hamas," Blinken said on NBC's Meet the Press. Hamas fighters, he said, are returning to northern Gaza areas that Israel claimed to have cleared, and an assault on Rafah "risks doing terrible harm to civilians" without ending the Hamas presence there. Israel's planned invasion of Rafah has helped fuel the deepest tensions in relations between Israel and its main ally in generations. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan raised President Joe Biden's "longstanding concerns" over a major Israeli assault on Rafah in a call on Sunday with his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi, a White House statement said. Sullivan discussed alternative courses of action to ensure the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza, and Hanegbi confirmed Israel is taking U.S. concerns into account, it said without elaborating. NBC and CBS News aired interviews with Blinken dominated by Biden's decision to pause a shipment of bombs to Israel over fears of massive civilian casualties in Rafah and a State Department report that Israel's use of U.S.-supplied arms may have broken international law. The report, which was unrelated to the bomb shipment, found no specific violations justifying withholding U.S. military aid, saying the chaos of war prevented verification of alleged individual breaches. Hamas' use of civilian infrastructure and tunnels "makes it very difficult to determine, particularly in the midst of war," what happened in specific instances, Blinken said, defending the report criticized by some lawmakers of Biden's Democratic Party and human rights groups. Appearing after Blinken on NBC, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders rejected the report, saying "any observer knows Israel has broken international law" and "should not be receiving another nickel in U.S. military aid." Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, interviewed on the same programme, called Biden's postponing the bombs "the worst decision in the history of the U.S. Israeli relationship."



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