Israeli defense minister says military will expand operations into Rafah

Israel's defense minister said Monday the military would expand its operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, while the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced he's seeking arrest warrants for both Israeli and Hamas leaders in connection with their actions during the seven-month war.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Gallant and the Israeli military leadership in Tel Aviv earlier Monday. Sullivan’s visit comes two weeks into the military’s foray into Rafah, where troops have been battling Hamas fighters and escalating bombardment.

The Biden administration has opposed a full-fledged invasion of Rafah because of fears for the civilian population. So far Israeli forces have mainly been operating in eastern parts of the city, but the fighting has already triggered an exodus of more than 810,000 Palestinians, according to the U.N.

“I emphasized to him (Sullivan) Israel’s duty to expand the ground operation in Rafah, to dismantle Hamas and to return the hostages,” Gallant said in a post on X.

In his visit, Sullivan was also discussing postwar plans for Gaza at a time when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces criticism from the other members of his War Cabinet. Netanyahu’s main political rival Benny Gantz has threatened to leave the government if a plan is not created by June 8 that includes an international administration for postwar Gaza.

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting some 250.

The war has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Around 80% of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians have been displaced within the territory, often multiple times.

Source: Associated Press

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