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TEL AVIV: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that an offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah would risk “further isolating” Israel and damage its long-term security.

Speaking as he departed Israel, Blinken told reporters he had “candid conversations,” referring to meetings with officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said after meeting Blinken that Israel is prepared to continue its war against Hamas alone, amid tense relations between the two allies over the Gaza conflict that is now in its sixth month.

Blinken said Washington shared Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas and ensuring its long-term security, but “a major military ground operation in Rafah is not the way to do it.”

“It risks killing more civilians. It risks wreaking greater havoc with the provision of humanitarian assistance. It risks further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing,” he said.

Antony Blinken heads to Israel to press for ‘immediate’ truce in Gaza war

U.S. President Joe Biden and Netanyahu have agreed that an Israeli delegation would visit Washington next week to discuss Israel’s plans for Rafah.

“We’ll be able to lay out for them in detail… how those goals can best be accomplished with an integrated humanitarian military and political plan,” Blinken said. “We’ll put all that on the table. Of course, we’ll hear from them too.”

Blinken also discussed with Israeli officials the “imperative of surging and sustaining humanitarian assistance for the people in Gaza,” he said, citing figures that 100% of the population there is acutely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance.

“There have been some positive steps taken in recent days to improve the situation, but it’s not enough,” he said.

The United States has teams in Doha where talks are taking place on a temporary ceasefire in Gaza in exchange for the release of remaining hostages taken in the Oct. 7 attacks by Palestinian group Hamas, Blinken added.

“We’ve gotten it down to a few remaining gaps but the closer you get to the goal line the harder that last yard is, so there are some hard issues to work through,” Blinken said.

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