WASHINGTON: The United States is “very disappointed” by the cancelation of an Israeli delegation’s planned visit to discuss concerns over a possible offensive in southern Gaza, the White House said Monday.

“We’re very disappointed that they won’t be coming to Washington, DC to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists.

Israel scrapped the visit after the United States abstained from a UN Security Council vote demanding a ceasefire in Gaza – a move that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said hurt Israel’s fight against Hamas.

Kirby however insisted that the vote “does not represent a shift in our policy,” and said the United States abstained because the text did not condemn Hamas.

Blinken says Rafah offensive risks further isolating Israel globally

“We’ve been consistent in our support (for) a ceasefire as part of a hostage deal,” he said, referring to efforts to free the roughly 130 people who are still believed to be held in Gaza after they were seized in a shock Hamas attack in October.

That attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

Israel’s military campaign in response to eliminate Hamas has killed more than 32,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The United States has backed Israel with both military and diplomatic support, but has voiced frustration with Netanyahu as the civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip mounts.

While the delegation’s trip has been canceled, a separate visit by Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is proceeding, the Pentagon said.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “is still planning to meet with Minister Gallant” on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists.

The Austin-Gallant talks will cover “efforts to secure the release of all hostages held by Hamas” and “the need for more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinian civilians,” Ryder said.

They will also discuss “plans to ensure the safety of the more than one million people sheltering in Rafah while also ensuring Hamas can no longer pose a threat to Israel,” he added.


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