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US again tells Israel that civilians must be protected

US President Joe Biden again told Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he should not proceed with military action in Rafah without a credible and executable plan to protect Palestinian civilians, the White House said.

The call between the two leaders was the second time in less than a week that

Mr Biden warned Netanyahu about moving into the southern part of Gaza without a plan to ensure the safety of some 1 million people sheltering there.

They also spoke about ongoing hostage negotiations and Mr Biden pledged to continue to work around the clock to help free the hostages, who have spent 132 days in Hamas captivity, according to the White House read out of the call.

Israeli forces said they had raided the biggest functioning hospital in Gaza, an incursion that raised fresh alarms over the fate of hundreds of patients and medical workers and the many displaced Palestinians who had sought shelter there from the war.

A doctor shared footage from inside Nasser Hospital where gunshots could be heard (Image: @mohammedharar2/Instagram)

Fighting at the hospital comes as Israel faces growing international pressure to show restraint, after vowing to press its offensive into Rafah, the last relatively safe place in Gaza.

Earlier this month, Mr Biden said Israel’s military response in the Gaza Strip had been “over the top” and expressed grave concern over the rising civilian death toll in the Palestinian enclave.

The war began on 7 October when Iran-backed Hamas sent fighters into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s air and ground offensive has since devastated tiny, crowded Gaza, killing 28,663 people, also mostly civilians, according to health authorities, and forcing nearly all its more than 2 million inhabitants from their homes.

Netanyahu said recognising a Palestinian state would be “an enormous reward to terrorism”

Netanyahu rejects international recognition of Palestinian state

The Israeli prime minister also said that he rejected a plan for international recognition of a Palestinian state, saying such an initiative “would offer an enormous reward to terrorism”.

Mr Netanyahu’s comments follow a similar rejection by influential far-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who responded to reports of the plan in The Washington Post.

The newspaper report, which cited several US and Arab diplomats, said that the United States, Israel’s main ally, was working with several Arab countries on a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The plan included a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the newspaper reported.

“Israel will continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” Mr Netanyahu said in a post in Hebrew on social media platform X.

“Such recognition, in the wake of the October 7 massacre, would offer an enormous reward to unprecedented terrorism and would prevent any future peace agreement,” he said.

“Israel categorically rejects international diktats concerning a permanent settlement with the Palestinians,” he added, saying that a peace agreement could only result from “direct negotiations without preconditions”.

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