Israel agrees to meet with US before ground invasion of Rafah; Daily airstrikes continue on the Rafah’s growing tent city

Refugee tents near Rafah on April 23. Since April 1, hundreds of new tents have appeared at the very northern edge of Rafah. Maxa

Reuters/Times of Israel:  This evening (Sunday) US President Joe Biden has spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a White House spokesperson says, adding that a readout will be issued shortly. Their conversation comes amid intensified efforts for a hostage-truce deal, and with the IDF preparing for a ground operation in Rafah.

Israel has started calling up reserve soldiers for a potential Rafah operation. An Israeli official said that Israel — under intense American pressure to avoid harm to the more than one million Gazans sheltering there — could start evacuating civilians by the end of the month.

But the official said the evacuation could take weeks and that Israel was also using the threat of an imminent military maneuver to press Hamas into a hostage deal. Another Israeli official said the government was conveying the message that Israel won’t wait much longer and that if Hamas wants to put off the Rafah operation it should start releasing hostages. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential matters.Negotiations for a hostage deal, mediated by the United States, Qatar and Egypt, have stalled in recent weeks“. The New York Times

Trigger Warning: Disturbing images of dead children.

According to NPR: The U.S. has pressed Israel to pursue “alternate ways” of addressing a Hamas military presence in Rafah, said Ambassador David Satterfield, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues.

“We think there are other ways to deal with this. And if there is not a credible, executable humanitarian plan, then we cannot support a ground operation,” Satterfield told reporters Tuesday.

For its part, Egypt issued a statement this week denying “any dealings with Israel” regarding Rafah, and it reiterated its strong opposition to an offensive in Gaza along Egypt’s border, saying it “will lead to massacres, massive human losses, and widespread destruction.”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has just arrived in Saudi Arabia today to continue trying to negotiate a return of Israeli Hostages and a temporary cease fire to give civilians in Rafah time to evacuate. Where will they go? Egypt will be present in today’s meeting because their border connects with Gaza at the city of Rafah and concerns are present that the fighting and fleeing will bleed into Egypt. Qatar, acting as an intermediary for Hamas, will also be present.