Biden Aide Warns Israel Against ‘Smashing Into Rafah’

A White House spokesman warned on Thursday that Israel “smashing into Rafah” would not eradicate Hamas as he urged the country to find alternatives to the long-threatened assault on a city where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering.

John F. Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said President Biden shares Israel’s goal of eradicating the terrorist group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages.

But Mr. Biden has grown increasingly wary of a major assault in the densely populated city of Rafah in southern Gaza. Since the war began, more than 34,000 people have died in Gaza, according to local health authorities. The United States fears an operation in Rafah would lead to widespread civilian casualties.

“An enduring defeat of Hamas certainly remains the Israeli goal, and we share that goal with them,” Mr. Kirby said. “Smashing into Rafah, in his view, will not advance that objective, will not get to that sustainable and enduring defeat of Hamas.”

Those concerns led Mr. Biden last week to pause the delivery of 3,500 bombs to Israel — the first time he leveraged U.S. arms to try to influence how the war is waged. On Wednesday, he said he would also withhold artillery if Israel went ahead with a major operation in Rafah.

“If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, that deal with that problem,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett.

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