Biden tells Netanyahu plan needed for Rafah residents’ safety

President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that a military operation in the overcrowded city of Rafah in southern Gaza should not proceed unless a plan for “ensuring the safety” of the population was laid out first, the White House said.Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

The health ministry in Gaza says the massive Israeli offensive in response has killed at least 28,064 people, mostly women and children.

Hamas also seized some 250 hostages, with 132 remaining in Gaza.

The White House official said “significant progress” had been made on a potential deal to release hostages and secure a temporary pause in fighting, while noting “significant gaps” remain.

“We’re hoping to be able to make some progress here over the coming week,” the official said. “Most of the call today was focused on that issue.”

Hamas, meanwhile, warned Israel on Sunday that a ground offensive in Rafah would imperil future hostage releases.

The Sunday morning call is the first announced contact between Biden and Netanyahu since the US president said he viewed Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as being “over the top.”

“There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble, dying, and it’s got to stop,” Biden told reporters on Thursday, in comments widely perceived as a harshening of his tone against Israel.

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