White House ‘perplexed’ by scrapped Israeli visit

White House ‘perplexed’ by scrapped Israeli visit
White House ‘perplexed’ by scrapped Israeli visit

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Washington was perplexed and disappointed by the cancelation of an Israeli delegation’s planned visit to discuss US concerns over a possible offensive in southern Gaza. — AFP pic

WASHINGTON, March 26 — The White House said Monday it was “perplexed” and “disappointed” by the cancelation of an Israeli delegation’s planned visit to discuss US concerns over a possible offensive in southern Gaza.

Israel scrapped the visit after the United States abstained from a UN Security Council vote demanding an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza — a move that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said hurt Israel’s fight against Palestinian militant group Hamas.

“We’re kind of perplexed” by the cancelation, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists, saying it “seems like the (Israeli) prime minister’s office is choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to.”

Kirby had earlier said Washington was “very disappointed” the delegation would not be visiting, and that the Security Council abstention “does not represent a shift” in US policy.

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“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 still believed to be held in Gaza after they were seized in a shock Hamas attack on October 7.

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.

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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 cancelled, a separate visit by Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is proceeding.

Kirby said Gallant was meeting with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Tuesday, and the Pentagon said the minister would meet US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin the following day.

Austin “is still planning to meet with Minister Gallant,” 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. — AFP

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