Israeli defense chief says 'military edge' at center of US trip

AFP , Sunday 24 Mar 2024

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday his visit to Washington this week would focus on maintaining Israel's military superiority in the Middle East, as fighting rages in Gaza.

Yoav Gallant
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. AFP


Gallant is expected to meet his US counterpart Lloyd Austin and other senior US officials, as relations between the two allies become strained over the civilian impact of Israel's almost six-month-old war on the Gaza Strip.

"During my visit, I will focus on preserving Israel's qualitative military edge and on ways to achieve our common goals: victory over Hamas and returning the captives home," Gallant said before departing on Sunday, according to a statement from his office.

Discussions on military capability will cover Israel's "ability to obtain platforms and munitions", he said, without elaborating.

Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign military assistance.

US governments have long argued that the aid is needed for its ally to maintain a military advantage in the region.

Gallant's visit will be his first to Washington since the ongoing war in Gaza started on October 7.

Israel's retaliatory military campaign on the Gaza Strip has killed at least 32,226 people, 70% of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Gallant's trip comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's latest tour of the region during which he warned that an Israeli offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah would be a "mistake" that "risks further isolating Israel around the world".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel was prepared to move ahead with the Rafah operation even without US support.

There are widespread fears of mass civilian casualties in Rafah where around 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge from the fighting.

Since October, Israel has also engaged in near-daily exchanges of fire across its northern border with Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides, and Gallant said this would be on the agenda in Washington.

"We will also discuss the need to return Israel's northern communities to their homes, whether this is achieved via military action or via agreement," Gallant said.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

Short link: