China calls on Israel to end its military operation in

Washington rejected a “large-scale” offensive in Rafah without any measures planned for civilians

The United States reiterated on Monday its opposition to a large-scale Israeli military operation in Rafah without protecting civilians and assured that a deal over hostages held in the Gaza Strip “remains possible.”

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Two hostages held in Rafah were released on Monday during an Israeli army operation that left around a hundred people dead in bombings, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.

American diplomatic spokesman Matthew Miller noted that this operation was not the start of the offensive on Rafah that had been expected for several days.

As part of this operation, the United States, Israel's first ally, is demanding a plan to protect civilians in Rafah “that is credible” and that Israel “can implement.” Without such a plan, “we do not support a large-scale military operation” in this Palestinian town on the Egyptian border, Mr. Miller said.

The spokesman did not explain what impact Israel would have if it carried out its operation without taking civilians into account. “We haven’t done that assessment,” he said.

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According to the United Nations, 1.4 million Palestinians are gathered in Rafah who have fled the four-month war between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas.

That war was sparked on Oct. 7 when Hamas commandos from the Gaza Strip, where the movement seized power in 2007, launched an attack in southern Israel that killed more than 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

In retaliation, Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization like the United States and the European Union, vowed to “destruct” the group and launched an offensive that killed at least 28,340 people in Palestinian territory. Children and young people, according to the latest report from the Hamas Ministry of Health.

Israel estimates there are still around 130 hostages in Gaza, 29 of whom are believed to have died, out of around 250 people kidnapped in Israel on October 7.

An agreement allowing the release of hostages in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting “remains possible,” Mr. Miller stressed.

“The benefits (…) would be enormous, first of course for the released hostages, but also for the humanitarian operation in Gaza and for our ability to begin the search for a real, viable and lasting solution to this conflict.” said the Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday.

According to sources close to the matter, CIA Director William Burns is expected in Cairo on Tuesday for a new round of talks on a draft treaty under Qatari auspices.

Miller said Washington has called on Israel to “urgently” investigate the “heartbreaking” death of Hind Rajab, a six-year-old girl who was found dead in Gaza City on Saturday after calling for help for hours. According to her family and Hamas, she was killed by the Israeli army.

The little girl's disappearance nearly two weeks ago and her poignant calls recorded by emergency services during the hours she survived in a car in the middle of an Israeli operation were widely shared on social media.