US indicates initial satisfaction with Israeli tailoring of military plans for Rafah.

Troops of the Givati Brigade operate in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in a handout photo published May 13, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces.)

Israel has been updating its plans for a military offensive in Rafah in a manner that has been initially satisfactory to the US, a senior Biden administration official says in a briefing with reporters.

Earlier this month, Israel launched operations in the eastern neighborhoods of Rafah and at the city’s border crossing — operations that the US says have not crossed its red line for what would warrant a withholding of weapons transfers.

Asked whether Israel could carry out an offensive in Rafah that is kept in line with the concerns of the Biden administration, the senior official says that Jerusalem is on the right path for doing so.

“It’s fair to say that the Israelis have updated their plans. They’ve incorporated many of the concerns that we have expressed,” the official says, while stopping short of fully green-lighting the IDF plans.

The US has for months come out against a major military offensive in Rafah, warning that there was no way to pull one off in a manner that accounted for the nearly 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering there.

But in recent weeks, Israel began issuing evacuation orders for large parts of Gaza’s southernmost city, leading nearly two-thirds of the population to flee to humanitarian zones to the south and west. While the US remains concerned that Israel doesn’t have the humanitarian systems in place to care for so many people who are now sheltering in areas flattened by bombings, as opposed to the slightly more infrastructurally sound Rafah, the senior Biden official was less critical of the latest Israeli efforts.

“I have to say after coming out of Israel these past couple of days… it is pretty clear that the Israelis are taking those concerns seriously,” the senior US official says.

He also notes that the situation in Rafah has changed dramatically over the past several weeks, given the mass evacuation of Palestinians.