Jake Sullivan
Jake SullivanArie Leib Abrams/Flash 90

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke on Sunday with his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi ahead of Israel’s Memorial Day.

According to a statement from the White House, Sullivan “expressed his condolences on behalf of President Biden and the American people on Israel’s Memorial Day.”

“He emphasized that this is the first Memorial Day to commemorate the victims of Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks that killed over 1,000 Israelis. Mr. Sullivan affirmed the ironclad US commitment to Israel’s security and the defeat of Hamas in Gaza,” said the statement, which added that the two also “discussed the situation in Gaza and ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages.”

The statement also noted that the issue of an Israeli operation in the Gazan city of Rafah came up in the conversation, and that Sullivan “reiterated 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.”

The US has long been vocal in its opposition to an Israeli operation in Rafah. Last Wednesday, Biden warned that he would halt shipments of American weapons to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders a major invasion of the city of Rafah.

Speaking to CNN, Biden said that while the US would continue to provide defensive weapons to Israel, including for its Iron Dome air defense system, other shipments would end should a major ground invasion of Rafah begin.

On Thursday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller claimed that the US thinks that “a major military operation in Rafah would further weaken Israel's stance in the world. It would further create distance from its partners in the region. We actually share Israel's goal of seeing Hamas defeated and want to see Hamas replaced with a different government structure in Gaza.”

And, on Friday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the US is watching Israel's operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah with concern and wants the Rafah crossing reopened immediately.