President Biden on Sunday advised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "not proceed" with Israel's slated operations in Rafah without a plan, the White House announced.
The White House said Biden, in a call with Netanyahu on Sunday morning, told the Israeli leader that the military operation in Rafah "should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there."
Israel ordered evacuations of Rafah last week in anticipation of an invasion of the densely populated city, where one of Gaza's largest refugee camps is located for Palestinians fleeing the war. It is the enclave's southernmost city and is located at the border with Egypt.
Rafah was considered the last designated safe zone in Gaza, while Israel claims it is the last remaining stronghold for the Palestinian militant group Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization that has ruled Gaza since 2007.
Israel struck Rafah overnight into last Friday and continued strikes over the weekend, which killed at least 31 Palestinians, The Associated Press (AP) reported. The strikes came despite the U.S.'s warnings last week against extending operations into Rafah.
State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel last week said an expansion into Rafah "with no planning and little thought in an area where there is sheltering of a million people would be a disaster.”
In his call with Netanyahu on Sunday, Biden also reaffirmed the White House's "shared goal" to see the threat of Hamas eliminated following the group's Oct. 7 attack, which left about 1,200 people dead, mostly civilians, according to the White House readout.
Biden also stressed the "need to capitalize on progress" made in the negotiations for the release of the remaining hostages taken by Hamas during its Oct. 7 assault and called for specific steps to increase humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians.
More than 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the onset of the war in early October, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, per the AP.
Biden has increased his calls in recent weeks for Israel to take greater caution in preventing civilian deaths in Gaza and last week said the "conduct of the response in [the] Gaza Strip has been over the top."
Netanyahu on Sunday dismissed this claim and said he believed Israel was doing the “right thing” in Gaza.