The Biden administration is urging Israel to avoid a major ground offensive and opt for a “surgical” operation with targeted raids instead, The Washington Post reported.
According to five U.S. officials familiar with the discussions, members of the Biden administration are worried that a possible ground invasion by Israel into Gaza could result in numerous civilian casualties and trigger an escalation of “hostilities in the region.”
“U.S. officials think a targeted operation would be more conductive to hostage negotiations, less likely to interrupt humanitarian aid deliveries, less deadly for people on both sides, and less likely to provoke a wider war in the region,” officials told the Post.
The Israeli military said it would be expanding its activity in Gaza following two small raids into the area this week. Israel has hinted at a ground invasion for weeks amid its war with militants group Hamas, which began earlier this month after 1,400 Israelis were killed in a surprise attack by Hamas.
President Biden and administration officials have indicated support for the ground offensive in the public, as they have stood with Israel since the start of its war. The recent discussions about urging Israel to reconsider would be a stark change from what the administration has said previously.
The potential operation from the Israeli military would almost certainly intensify the humanitarian crisis already seen in the Gaza Strip and would risk lives of Israeli soldiers.
Officials are urging Israel to reassess if a ground invasion would achieve the goal of eradicating Hamas, given the densely populated city and the group’s network of underground tunnels.
Members of Biden’s team have pointed reporters to his previous message that Israel’s military will make its own decisions. Still, the change is different than what the administration has said since the war began.
“They have clearly shifted from an initial ‘We have your back; we’ll do whatever you want’ to now ‘You really need to rethink your strategy,'” a person familiar with the conversations told the Post. “And they’re doing it in a careful way.”
Despite the shift, officials still think Israel is likely to carry out the ground operation. While the Middle Eastern nation has looked to Biden as a leader in the war, it has pledged to go forward with the operation, known as Operation Swords of Iron.
At the same time, the U.S. is working to provide Israel with a new $14 billion aid package that will help replenish its Iron Dome missile interceptors.