Israel defence chief to head to US for Gaza talks | Israel-Gaza war

Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant will leave on Sunday for talks in the United States, the government said, amid growing tensions between the allies over the war in Gaza.

Gallant will meet with US counterpart Lloyd Austin, US secretary of state Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan “and additional senior officials”, a statement said.

“The parties will discuss developments in the war against the Hamas terrorist organisation in Gaza, efforts undertaken to return the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, humanitarian efforts and measures required to ensure regional stability,” it said.

The visit comes after Blinken’s latest whistle-stop 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 “alone”, without US support.

There are widespread fears of mass civilian casualties in Rafah where about 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge during the war which erupted after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

Gallant’s visit will be his first to Washington since the fighting broke out.

US president Joe Biden said Monday he had told Netanyahu to send a team to Washington to discuss how to avoid a full-scale military operation in Rafah.

A US defence official said this week that Gallant’s scheduled meeting with Austin was separate from the delegation visit requested by Biden.

The Hamas attack on 7 October resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign to destroy Hamas has killed at least 32,142 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

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