US urges Israel to halt Gaza offensive amid hostage crisis: report

Israeli officials have increasingly signaled publicly that a Gaza invasion could be imminent.

Washington:

The US has advised Israel to end its ground offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Sources said Qatar is retaining a broker with Palestinian militants as Washington tries to free more hostages. A possible spillover into a wider regional war.

After Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,400 people, the United States stood by its allies and insisted that Israel had the right to defend itself. Israel has also publicly asserted that it will determine the timetable for retaliation.

But the White House, Pentagon and State Department have now stepped up individual appeals for caution in conversations with the Israelis, two sources familiar with the discussions said, as Israel’s blockade of Gaza worsens a humanitarian crisis and the death toll from bombing enclave passes tops 5,000.

The US priority is to allow more time for negotiations on the release of hostages taken by Hamas on October 7, especially after the unexpected release of two Americans on Friday, the sources said. Hamas said it released two more hostages on Monday. Hamas is believed to be holding more than 200 hostages.

A U.S. official said the administration, mindful of Doha’s role as an intermediary with Hamas, is conveying its advice to Qatari officials to Israel so that they are fully up to speed as hostage negotiations continue.

“As of now, there is no clear road map or sequence of steps towards full expansion. Priority is given to a phased evacuation of hostages,” a source said about the hostage talks.

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‘Hard Questions’

A second U.S. official said European governments, many of whom are holding citizens hostage, are recommending that Israel refrain from launching a ground attack to make room for negotiations on their release.

US President Joe Biden discussed the hostage and humanitarian crisis in Gaza with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Britain on Sunday, the White House said.

Along with the hostage negotiations, the first US official said that prompting an end to Israel’s invasion would give Gaza more time to deliver humanitarian aid. Since Saturday, 54 aid trucks have been able to enter Gaza from Egypt, the United Nations said.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday that Washington had talked to Israel since the start of the conflict to “see their intentions, their strategy, their intentions, what their answers are to the kinds of tough questions. The military needs to ask.”

A US defense official, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – in several phone calls with his Israeli counterpart – stressed the need to be prepared for the knock-on effects of a ground attack, including the risks of expanding conflicts in the region. Hostages and the Humanitarian Crisis.

US officials have insisted that Israel follow the laws of war in any aggression against Gaza, home to 2.3 million people.

US Defense

Israeli officials have increasingly signaled publicly that a Gaza invasion could be imminent. However, no one has given a hard date, or said there is a postponement. Israel has mobilized 300,000 soldiers.

“We will do what we have to do, and that is reduce US control over planning an attack,” Eliav Benjamin, Israel’s deputy ambassador to Washington, told Israel’s Army Radio on Monday.

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Since Sunday, Israel has signaled a change in tactics by sending infantry, backed by tanks, to probe incursions into Gaza that have touched off clashes with Hamas militants. Hamas has also focused airstrikes on areas it described as areas where it would mass its fighters to ambush any invasion.

Instructing Israel to cease ground attacks also allows Washington to prepare for possible retaliatory strikes against US interests in the region.

“We anticipate that there will be an escalation … and we are taking steps to effectively protect our people and respond decisively if necessary,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told NBC on Sunday.

Washington is concerned that some senior Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Yoav Galland, are advocating a preemptive strike on Hezbollah.

U.S. officials say that if Hezbollah were to launch a full-scale war in the north, it would be difficult for Israel to wage war on two fronts at once. Washington has sent two aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean. to strengthen its presence in the region and act as a frontrunner for Israel’s other Middle Eastern adversaries.

(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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