US announces Israel agrees to try to reschedule canceled trips

The White House press secretary announced Wednesday that the Israeli government has agreed to reschedule the visit of a group of officials scheduled to visit Washington to discuss a possible attack on key cities in the southern Gaza Strip. . UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

President Biden had asked Israel to send a delegation to Washington to discuss alternatives to a ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million people have fled. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was furious at the US decision to abstain from voting on the resolution at the UN Security Council on Monday and called off the delegation’s visit at the last minute.

“The prime minister’s office has indicated that they would like to reschedule this meeting to discuss Operation Rafah,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “We welcome that. And we’re going to work with their team to make sure that happens.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office that he intended to change the date, but his office issued a statement hours earlier denying reports that talks would resume. “Contrary to reports, the Prime Minister did not approve the departure of the delegation to Washington,” the statement said.

The United States has previously vetoed the ceasefire resolution three times. But Monday’s abstention allowed the passage of a resolution calling for a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan, with less strong language than previous resolutions.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the abstention “a retreat from the United States’ consistent position since the beginning of the war.” The Biden administration insisted on Monday that the abstention did not signal a change in the US position.

Israeli officials say friction between the two countries has escalated over civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, after more than five months of fighting that began with an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that killed about 1,200 people. There is.

Health officials in the Gaza Strip say more than 32,000 people have been killed in Israeli military operations, fighting has created dire conditions there and humanitarian groups have warned that famine is imminent.

Asked about Netanyahu’s denial of reports that talks would resume, Jean-Pierre was adamant that the prime minister’s office had agreed to try to reschedule the meeting.

“If I get a date, I’ll definitely share it,” she said. “That’s what we know from the side.”

The announcement came hours after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant wrote on social media that he had successfully completed his visit to the United States. The trip coincided with the United Nations vote and its aftermath.

During his visit, Mr. Gallant met with several senior U.S. officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, who made Rafah a central topic of discussion.

After the meeting, a senior Pentagon official said Mr. Austin laid out the outline of the Biden administration’s alternative approach to large-scale combat operations in Rafah, including an emphasis on precision targeting aimed at rooting out Hamas leadership.

In a telephone conversation with reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential discussions, the official said that the Israeli side has been receptive and that they plan to hold additional talks in the future.

Jean-Pierre said the United States remains hopeful that it can help Hamas broker a temporary ceasefire and the release of hostages.

White House National Security Council Press Secretary John F. Kirby acknowledged that negotiations had stalled in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 that aired Wednesday night.

“We felt the gap was closing and we were getting closer to an agreement to rescue the hostages,” he said. “Right now, it doesn’t look like we’re going at least in the direction we all wanted, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving up on our efforts.”

Jonathan Rees Contributed to the report.

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