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United States urges Israel to delay Gaza invasion, maintains contact with mediator Qatar – sources.

US Urges Israel to Exercise Caution in Gaza Invasion

US advises Israel to hold off on Gaza invasion, prioritizing hostage negotiations

The United States has advised Israel to exercise restraint and refrain from launching a ground assault on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. As tensions escalate, Washington is actively engaged in talks with Israel while keeping Qatar, a mediator with the Palestinian militants, informed about the discussions. The US is striving to secure the release of hostages and mitigate the risk of a wider regional conflict.

US emphasizes Israel’s right to self-defense amid growing concerns

After Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in the loss of numerous lives, the United States reaffirmed its support for its ally’s right to protect itself. However, in recent private conversations, the White House, Pentagon, and State Department have urged caution to their Israeli counterparts. The deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the rising death toll from Israeli bombardment have heightened the need for restraint.

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Prioritizing hostage negotiations and humanitarian aid

One of the US’s primary concerns is the release of hostages held by Hamas since the attacks on October 7. With negotiations underway, the unexpected release of two Americans on Friday has underscored the importance of continued efforts. To ensure effective communication with Hamas, the US has been sharing its advice to Israel with Qatari officials, who are acting as intermediaries.

“For now, there’s no clear roadmap or sequence of the steps towards complete de-escalation. The priority is on working to get the hostages out step-by-step,” said a source familiar with the negotiations.

European governments, similarly invested in the release of their own citizens held hostage, have also urged Israel to refrain from launching a ground offensive to allow negotiations to progress. President Joe Biden engaged with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Britain to address the hostage and humanitarian crises in Gaza.

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Preparing for potential spillover and escalating tensions

Advising Israel against a ground offensive not only gives more time for hostage negotiations and the delivery of humanitarian aid but also allows the US to prepare for potential retaliatory attacks against its interests in the region. Fears of a spillover conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah have prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to emphasize the need for caution.

Israel’s considerations and US support

While Israel has indicated that a Gaza invasion may be imminent, US officials have stressed the importance of considering the wider implications. The US has deployed two aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean as a deterrent and to support Israel in the face of potential conflicts beyond Gaza. The US has also urged Israel to adhere to the laws of war and consider the well-being of Gaza’s population.

“We will do what we need to do, when we need to do it,” said Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Washington, Eliav Benjamin, downplaying the extent of US influence on Israel’s offensive planning.

By exercising caution and prioritizing negotiations, the United States aims to de-escalate the situation and foster a path towards peace, while ensuring the safety of its citizens and allies.

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