US offers Israel intelligence assistance to locate Hamas leaders in exchange for restraint in Rafah: Washington Post

Ahram Online , AFP , Sunday 12 May 2024

The US Biden administration is offering Israel valuable assistance if it holds back on a full-scale invasion of Rafah, including sensitive intelligence to help the Israeli army pinpoint the location of Hamas leaders and find the group’s hidden tunnels.

A man, woman, and children ride in the back of a tricycle loaded with belongings as they flee bound for Khan Yunis, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 2024. AFP


Four people familiar with the US offer disclosed this information to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.

They also revealed that American officials have also offered to help provide thousands of shelters -- so Israel can build tent cities -- and help with the construction of delivery systems for food, water, and medicine so that Palestinians evacuated from Rafah can have a habitable place to live.

White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby said that Washington will do "everything we can to help Israel make sure that the border between Gaza and Egypt can’t be used for the smuggling of arms and weapons into Hamas."

"We could also, in fact, help them target the leaders, including Mr. Sinwar (Hamas leader in Gaza), which we are, frankly, doing with the Israelis on an ongoing basis."

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden warned Israel that he would stop supplying artillery shells and other weapons if its forces attack the city of Rafah in southern Gaza. He also lamented Israel's use of US bombs to kill civilians.

"If they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used... to deal with the cities," Biden said in a televised interview with CNN.

"We're not gonna supply the weapons and the artillery shells that have been used."

Israeli troops on Tuesday seized and closed the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing -- through which all fuel passes into Gaza -- after ordering residents of eastern Rafah to evacuate.

The United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees, the main provider of aid in Gaza, meanwhile said 300,000 people have fled Rafah since the operation began there. Most are heading to the heavily damaged nearby city of Khan Younis or Mawasi, a crowded tent camp on the coast where some 450,000 people are already living in squalid conditions.

Rafah was sheltering some 1.3 million Palestinians before the Israeli operation began, most of whom had fled fighting elsewhere in the territory.

The White House said it did not yet see a "major ground operation" in Rafah but was watching the situation "with concern".

According to the Post, US officials have told Israel it will take several months to safely relocate hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who are now living in decrepit conditions in Rafah. However, Israeli officials disagree with that assessment.

UN human rights chief insisted  Sunday that a full-scale Israeli assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah "cannot take place" since it could not be reconciled with international law.

"I can see no way that the latest evacuation orders, much less a full assault, in an area with an extremely dense presence of civilians, can be reconciled with the binding requirements of international humanitarian law and with the two sets of binding provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice," Volker Turk said in a statement.

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