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Devastation in Gaza as Israel wages war on Hamas

5:18 p.m. ET, April 9, 2024

Biden administration considers Netanyahu’s claim about Rafah invasion date to be braggadocio, senior officials say

By CNN’s MJ Lee and Alex Marquardt

The Biden administration rejects Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that a date has been set for a ground offensive on Rafah, calling it bluster fueled largely by the Israeli prime minister’s fragile political position at home, CNN officials told CNN. senior administration officials.

The prime minister is struggling to balance his stated goal of eliminating Hamas with the enormous pressure to achieve a ceasefire that would allow the release of Israeli hostages. Israeli officials say four Hamas battalions remain in Rafah and must be eliminated.

The administration’s point of view: Privately, several senior administration officials described Netanyahu’s statement as bravado.

Public statements from the administration: Senior officials have publicly questioned Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel decided when to launch an offensive in the southern Gaza city. U.S. officials reiterated that the United States has not seen anything from the Israelis that resembles a comprehensive plan for how they would carry out such an operation, including first moving the majority of the 1.4 million civilians estimated outside Rafah.

Here is what senior US officials said:

  • Secretary of State: “We do not have a date for any operation in Rafah, at least a date that was communicated to us by the Israelis,” Antony Blinken said on Tuesday. “I don’t see anything imminent.”
  • National Security Advisor: “If he has an appointment, he hasn’t shared it with us,” Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday.
  • US Secretary of Defense: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Lloyd Austin that Israel was still developing a plan and making necessary preparations for a possible invasion of Rafah, and did not indicate a date. had been set for the operation, several people familiar with the call told CNN.

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