Biden summons Israeli team in bid to avoid Rafah assault

U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday he had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to send a team to Washington to discuss how to avoid an all-out assault in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The move is one of the clearest attempts yet by Biden to rein in the key U.S. ally, amid fears that the already huge death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza could be drastically worsened by a full attack on Rafah.

The White House said separately that Israel had killed one of Hamas's top commanders in a strike in Gaza.

"I asked the Prime Minister to send a team to Washington to discuss ways to target Hamas without a major ground operation in Rafah," Biden said on X after speaking to Netanyahu for the first time in more than a month.

Biden also "reiterated the need for an immediate ceasefire as part of a deal to free hostages, lasting several weeks, so we can get hostages home and surge aid to civilians in Gaza."

Roughly 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah, most of them displaced by Israel's relentless assault on other parts of Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

The White House earlier said Biden had warned Netanyahu that an offensive on Rafah would be a "mistake", in their first call since February 15.

"A major ground operation there would be a mistake," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters.

"It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza, and further isolate Israel internationally."

Netanyahu agreed to send a team of senior Israeli officials to Washington in coming days to discuss "alternative approaches that would target key elements of Hamas", he added.

Sullivan separately confirmed...

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