Send team to Washington for talks on Rafah, Biden asks Netanyahu

The Israeli security cabinet had authorized the departure of a delegation led by Barnea to the Gulf state late on Sunday evening.

Send team to Washington for talks on Rafah, Biden asks Netanyahu
Netanyahu / Biden
Send team to washington for talks on rafah, biden asks netanyahu
Netanyahu / biden

U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday that President Joe Biden has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a telephone call to send a team of representatives from the military, intelligence services and humanitarian aid specialists to Washington in the coming days.

Biden wants to explain his government’s reservations about the planned offensive in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip and discuss possible alternatives.

Netanyahu agreed to send such a team.

“We have every expectation that they’re not going to proceed with a major military operation in Rafah until we have that conversation,” Sullivan said, referring to the Israelis.

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A meeting is planned for the end of this week or the beginning of next week, but a specific date has not yet been set.

Sullivan said a major Israeli offensive in Rafah would be a mistake, but that Hamas should not use the city or anywhere else as a safe haven.

The national security adviser rejected reports that the tone between Biden and Netanyahu was tense and that the phone call ended abruptly. The conversation was “business-like,” he said.

Meanwhile, David Barnea, the head of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, met with mediators in Qatar, Israeli TV station N12 reported.

The Israeli security cabinet had authorized the departure of a delegation led by Barnea to the Gulf state late on Sunday evening.

Mediators from Qatar, Egypt, and the United States are attempting to make progress in the recently stalled talks on a temporary ceasefire and an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas recently submitted a new proposal to the mediators.

In it, Hamas no longer demands that Israel end the war before the first hostages are exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

According to the proposal, Hamas would only make a non-temporary cessation of hostilities by Israel a prerequisite for a second phase of hostage releases.

This means that Hamas has come closer to the contents of a multi-stage plan that the mediators had presented several weeks ago and which Israel had accepted.

Now that Hamas has made some progress, Israel is prepared to take part in the indirect mediation talks in Qatar for the first time in a fortnight. Israeli television reported that the talks are expected to last at least two weeks.

On the ground in Gaza, Israel concentrated its military activities on Monday on al-Shifa Hospital, where it said it had killed a senior official of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which was behind the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

The man was Faik al-Mabhouh, head of Hamas’ internal security department, which is also responsible for operational missions, according to a joint statement by the military and the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service.

Al-Mabhouh was also “responsible for coordinating Hamas terror activities in the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.

Hamas initially gave no official confirmation of al-Mabhouh’s death.

Al-Mabhouh was killed after intelligence information was received about the presence of senior Hamas members in the al-Shifa hospital, the army said.

He had been hiding armed in a building of the hospital complex and was killed in a confrontation with the troops, the statement said.

Several weapons were found in the room next to his hiding place.

Eyewitnesses reported heavy gunfire inside the hospital. There were reports that a journalist from Arabic broadcaster Al-Jazeera was among dozens of people detained in the hospital.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a briefing on Monday evening that “we apprehended over two hundred terror suspects who are currently under investigation, eliminated more than twenty terrorists within the hospital area.”

Hagari added that IDF forces would “continue to operate in the hospital area tonight.”

According to reports from Gaza, the man killed was a brother of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was murdered in Dubai in 2010. At the time, Dubai police accused the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad of being behind the crime.

One accusation against Mahmud al-Mabhouh was that he had procured weapons for Hamas.

The case caused quite a stir internationally.

Prior to the operation, the IDF urged Palestinians sheltering in Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital to leave the conflict zone.

“You should leave the area to the west immediately to ensure your safety and then … to the humanitarian zone in al-Mawasi,” an IDF spokesman wrote in Arabic on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday morning.

He was referring to a town on the coast of the Gaza Strip in the far south. The IDF also dropped flyers.

Hagari in the morning had said that the operation followed “concrete intelligence that demanded immediate action.”

The military said it would “continue to act in accordance with international law and against the Hamas terrorist organisation – which operates from hospitals and civilian infrastructure in a systematic and cynical way.”

The U.S. government had also supported the Israeli claim that Hamas had used the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip as a command centre and weapons depot.