Lloyd Austin and Yoav Gallant
Lloyd Austin and Yoav GallantAriel Hermoni, Defense Ministry

The US continues to voice concerns over Israel’s operation against Hamas terrorist battalions in the Gazan city of Rafah.

The issue came up once again during a conversation on Thursday between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement following the call that the two discussed “the need to increase humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including through Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings”.

“Secretary Austin discussed US progress on opening the maritime corridor to surge humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Minister Gallant and Secretary Austin reviewed the latest efforts to secure the release of hostages held captive by Hamas,” added Ryder.

He also noted that Austin “reinforced the unquestionable necessity to ensure the protection of civilians alongside the uninterrupted flow of aid before any potential Israeli military operation in Rafah.”

Finally, said the statement, the Secretary of Defense “reaffirmed the United States' ironclad commitment to Israel's security and the defeat of Hamas.”

The US has repeatedly pressured Israel not to launch a major operation in Rafah.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement that Blinken “reaffirmed the US opposition to a major military ground operation in Rafah, where over one million people have taken shelter.”

The conversation between Blinken and Gallant followed an earlier conversation between Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi ahead of Israel’s Memorial Day.

The issue of Rafah came up in that conversation as well, with Sullivan reiterating “President Biden’s longstanding concerns over the potential for a major military ground operation into Rafah, where over one million people have taken shelter. He discussed alternative courses of action to ensure the defeat of Hamas everywhere in Gaza.”

Hanegbi, said the statement, “confirmed that Israel is taking US concerns into account. Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Hanegbi then reviewed the substantive discussions to date of the Strategic Consultative Group. They agreed to establish another in-person meeting soon.”

Gallant on Wednesday visited the headquarters of the IDF’s Division 162, which is operating in the Rafah area.

During his visit, Gallant held an operational situation assessment together with the Head of the Command, Division Commander and senior IDF officials.

Gallant said after the assessment, "Additional troops will join the ground operation in Rafah. A number of tunnels in the area have already been destroyed – Hamas’ faucets are being shut."

"This operation will continue as additional forces will enter the area. Several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our troops and additional tunnels will be destroyed soon. This activity will intensify – Hamas is not an organization that can reorganize, it does not have reserve troops, it has no supply stocks and no ability to treat the terrorists that we target. The result is that we are wearing Hamas down."