Gallant and Austin
Gallant and AustinAriel Hermoni, Defense Ministry

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder on Tuesday issued a statement summarizing the meeting between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, which took place at the Pentagon.

Ryder noted that Gallant’s visit to Washington “is a testament to the United States' unwavering support for Israel's long-term security. The Secretary and Minister affirmed their shared interest in defeating Hamas.”

“Secretary Austin and Minister Gallant discussed the importance of prioritizing civilian protection in the event of military operations in Rafah, the dire humanitarian situation across Gaza, and threats to regional security,” added the statement, which reiterated the US position against an Israeli operation in the Gazan city of Rafah.

“The Secretary stressed that the United States and Israel have a moral imperative and a shared strategic interest in safeguarding civilians, noting that operations in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and implementable plan that ensures the safety of and humanitarian support for civilians sheltering there,” said the statement.

Ryder added that Austin “urged the Minister to expand entry points for humanitarian assistance and address distribution challenges inside of Gaza. The Secretary emphasized that the US government's plan to establish a temporary maritime corridor to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza is one part of a sustained international effort to deliver more aid and must be matched by increased delivery of assistance by ground.”

“The Secretary and the Minister reaffirmed the urgent need to secure the release of all hostages held captive by Hamas in Gaza. Secretary Austin reiterated his support for a diplomatic solution to resolve tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border that will allow Israeli civilians to return to their homes in northern Israel as quickly and safely as possible. The Secretary made clear that the United States remained committed to deterring any regional actors from exploiting or expanding the conflict beyond Gaza,” concluded the Pentagon spokesman.

Gallant commented on his meeting with Austin in a post on social media on Tuesday night, writing, “Thank you to my friend Secretary Austin for hosting us at the Pentagon for an important discussion on operations required to destroy Hamas’ governing and terror capabilities, efforts to release the hostages, and ways to ensure regional stability in the face of threats on multiple fronts.”

“We also discussed the importance of maintaining Israel’s QME in the region, as well as the ongoing cooperation between the defense establishments and militaries of both countries,” he added.

On Monday, Gallant met in Washington with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement after the meeting that Blinken “reiterated the United States’ support for ensuring the defeat of Hamas, including in Rafah, while reiterating opposition to a major ground operation in Rafah that would further jeopardize the welfare of the more than 1.4 million Palestinian civilians sheltering there.”

“The Secretary underscored that alternatives exist to a major ground invasion that would both better ensure Israel’s security and protect Palestinian civilians. Secretary Blinken also discussed the need to immediately surge and sustain additional humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of civilians in Gaza,” the statement added.

The US administration has repeatedly stressed its opposition to an Israeli operation in Rafah. Blinken, who visited Israel just this past Friday, reiterated that the Biden administration opposes an Israeli operation in Rafah.

“We share Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas, which is responsible for the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust. And we share the goal of ensuring Israel’s long-term security. As we’ve said, though, a major military ground operation in Rafah is not the way to do it,” he told reporters at Ben Gurion Airport.

White House spokesperson John Kirby later said, "We believe a major ground offensive [in Rafah] is a mistake" and would be a "disaster".

US Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday told ABC News that she would not rule out "consequences" if Israel carried out a military operation in Rafah.