U.S. Has Warned Israel to Fight More Surgically in Gaza, Officials Say


The United States has warned Israel that it must fight more surgically and avoid further mass displacement of Palestinians in its war against Hamas to avoid a humanitarian crisis that overwhelms the world’s ability to respond, according to senior Biden administration officials.

The White House has told Israel that replicating the scale of its bombardment in northern Gaza as it makes an expected push into southern Gaza once the recent pause in fighting ends would produce a crisis beyond the capacity of any humanitarian support network, the officials said on Monday night. The United Nations has said the fighting has already displaced most of Gaza’s population of 2.2 million.

The statements are the Biden administration’s strongest warning to Israeli officials to date about the next phase of their military operation. For weeks, the White House has been careful to say it does not dictate how Israel conducts its military operations, but President Biden and senior members of his staff have grown more vocal as the humanitarian crisis has unfolded.

They also come as the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues, said they were ramping up humanitarian aid during the cease-fire that took effect late last week, and expressed optimism that aid could continue even when fighting resumed.

Among other things, American officials have told the Israelis that any coming military operations should not hamper the flow of power and water or impede the work of humanitarian sites such as hospitals and U.N.-supported shelters in south and central Gaza.

The Israeli government was receptive to the requests, one official said.

The cease-fire, to allow for the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians taken prisoner by Israel, has allowed for the first extended break in the violence since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas gunmen and other militant groups killed an estimated 1,200 people in Israel. Gazan health officials say at least 13,000 people were killed during the nearly 50-day Israeli bombardment and ground invasion that followed.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made clear that he intends for Israel to continue fighting after the truce ends, though it was extended by two more days on Monday. On Tuesday, Hamas released 12 more hostages, including 10 Israelis and two Thai nationals, the Israeli military said.

The Biden administration officials said the United States was taking advantage of the extra time. On Tuesday, a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft delivered more than 54,000 pounds of humanitarian supplies, including medicine and food, to neighboring Egypt for distribution to Gazan civilians. The United States is planning additional flights in the coming days, officials said.

“The United States will continue to lead the humanitarian response in Gaza to further support those in desperate need,” the U.S. Agency for International Development said in a statement on Tuesday. It called on other nations to join what it described as a “woefully underfunded” global humanitarian effort.

Administration officials emphasized the extraordinary progress that has been made in aid delivery, though they acknowledged that the level of assistance was still not enough to support normal life in Gaza. The officials also said that the increase in aid, including much-needed fuel, was not contingent on hostage releases, offering hope that the shipments could continue when fighting resumed.

John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said on Monday that since the pause in fighting had taken effect, Gaza had received its largest humanitarian convoy since the war began. The convoy brought the total number of aid trucks to over 2,000 since Oct. 21, he said.

Mr. Kirby said that the administration would “take advantage of every hour of every day that there’s a pause to try to help the people of Gaza.”

“Our team has prioritized getting this much-needed relief into Gaza to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian civilians there,” he said. “Of course, most of them have nothing to do with Hamas.”


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