Biden Administration Warns ‘If Israel Launches an Attack on Hamas in Rafah That Would Actually Strengthen Them’

The Biden administration argued on Thursday that if Israel launched an ambitious attack on Hamas in Rafah, it could potentially help Hamas, strengthen their position in hostage negotiations, and garner increased popular support for Hamas.

Israel started a limited operation in Rafah this week, near the Egyptian border, as it gears up to confront the remaining four Hamas battalions in a town considered the terrorist organization’s last stronghold in the Gaza Strip.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that an Israeli military campaign in Rafah would “actually weaken … Israel’s security.”

He also said that the U.S. had presented Israel with “a full range of policy choices” that would achieve the same goal of dismantling Hamas without entering Rafah but did not explain what those choices were.

When asked if President Joe Biden’s statement regarding the U.S. withholding weapons from Israel would weaken Israel’s leverage in hostage negotiations, Miller clarified that “hasn’t been our assessment” of the talks.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby made similar claims, according to the Times of Israel:

“Any kind of major Rafah ground operation would actually strengthen Hamas’s hands at the negotiating table, not Israel’s. That’s our view,” Kirby says in a briefing with reporters.

“If I’m Mr. Sinwar, and I’m sitting down in my tunnel… and I’m seeing innocent people falling victim to major significant combat operations in Rafah, then I have less of an incentive to want to come to the negotiating table,” the White House spokesperson argues.

The reasoning seemed to suggest that if more Palestinian civilians were killed, Hamas might have less motivation to release Israeli hostages — whether due to anger over civilian casualties or Hamas’s intention to inflict more civilian casualties. Kirby did not clarify which of these possibilities was the case.

The White House has not disclosed any alternative plans to attacking Hamas in Rafah.

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By Hunter Fielding
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