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Israel Allows Food Aid Trucks to Enter Northern Gaza Directly For First Time Since Start of War: Live Updates

The White House denied on Tuesday that President Biden had set any “red lines” for Israel in its campaign against Hamas in Gaza but warned again that Israel should not attack the city of Rafah, the southernmost city in the enclave, without protections for more than a million people sheltering there.

“The president didn’t make any declarations or pronouncements or announcements,” said Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, referring to an interview Mr. Biden gave over the weekend in which he was asked whether he had a “red line” Israel should not cross in its prosecution of the war.

In the interview, with MSNBC, Mr. Biden rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, saying that “he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost” and that “he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel.”

Mr. Netanyahu later dismissed that contention as “wrong,” and on Tuesday he again defended Israel’s efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Speaking by video to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group based in Washington that is usually referred to as AIPAC, he said that Israel’s allies “cannot say you support Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas and then oppose Israel when it takes the actions necessary to achieve that goal.”

Mr. Biden, while trying to increase the pressure on Mr. Netanyahu, has insisted that U.S. support for Israel will remain steadfast. Mr. Sullivan, who met on Tuesday with Israel’s ambassador, Michael Herzog, declined to discuss reports that Mr. Biden, if Israel proceeded with the Rafah operation, might impose restrictions on how Israel can use the arms the United States is supplying it.

“We’re not going to engage in hypotheticals about what comes down the line, and the reports that purport to describe the president’s thinking are uninformed speculation,” Mr. Sullivan said.

But he repeated Mr. Biden’s view that Israel should not attack Rafah without explaining how it would protect the civilians who have taken refuge there.

The president believes there is a long-term path to stability and security for Israel, Mr. Sullivan said, but “that path does not lie in smashing into Rafah, where there are 1.3 million people, in the absence of a credible plan to deal with the population there. And again, as things stand today, we have not seen what that plan is.”

For his part, Mr. Netanyahu again vowed on Tuesday to attack Hamas in Rafah, despite warnings from the United States and other nations that a ground offensive there would have disastrous consequences for civilians in the city.

“To win this war, we must destroy the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “If not, Hamas will regroup, rearm and reconquer Gaza, and then we’re back to square one. And that’s an intolerable threat that we cannot accept.”

More than a million Palestinians who have fled from fighting in other parts of the Gaza Strip — many of them obeying Israeli directives to move south for their safety — have crammed into temporary, often squalid shelters in Rafah, which is on the border with Egypt. People there and aid workers have described worsening crises of hunger, disease and desperate conditions, and Israel’s allies have increasingly urged the country to scale back its military campaign and allow more aid into Gaza.

Israeli officials have said they are developing a plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah, and Mr. Netanyahu said on Tuesday, “We will finish the job in Rafah while enabling the civilian population to get out of harm’s way.”

Divisions over invading Rafah have also added to strains in Israel’s wartime emergency government. On Tuesday, the hawkish New Hope party announced that it would leave the fragile two-party alliance led by Benny Gantz, a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s war cabinet.

The leader of the New Hope party, Gideon Sa’ar, has argued that Israel should already have invaded Rafah, while senior members of Mr. Gantz’s faction have prioritized reaching a temporary cease-fire deal with Hamas to release hostages.

Although tensions between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have increasingly emerged in public, analysts have questioned for months whether Israel can accomplish its objective of eradicating Hamas. In a report released Monday but written before the most recent tensions between U.S. and Israeli officials, American intelligence analysts raised doubts about the feasibility of that goal.

“Israel probably will face lingering armed resistance from Hamas for years to come, and the military will struggle to neutralize Hamas’s underground infrastructure, which allows insurgents to hide, regain strength and surprise Israeli forces,” the report said.

Adam Sella and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

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Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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