Defense secretary welcomes Israeli counterpart to the Pentagon

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Austin and Gallant discussed the humanitarian situation inside the Gaza strip, where more than 32,000 Palestinians have died.


“In Gaza today, the number of civilian casualties is far too high, and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low,” Austin said in opening remarks welcoming Gallant to the Pentagon.


The two defense chiefs also talked about Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering.


Israel has threatened to move into Rafah, spurring concerns of an even greater humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations already warning of a potential famine in northern Gaza.


A senior U.S. defense official said Austin reiterated his proposal for Israel to find alternatives to a major ground operation in Rafah, which could involve “precision targeting” of senior Hamas leaders.


“We believe we have ideas that can be relevant to achieving those dual objectives,” the official said of defeating Hamas and supporting humanitarian efforts.


Austin and Gallant met even after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled an upcoming delegation to Washington.


The delegation was expected to meet with U.S. officials on Rafah, but Netanyahu slammed the U.S. for abstaining Monday from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution, allowing it to pass.


The resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire for the next two weeks during the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and for a hostage deal.


Netanyahu said the resolution awards Hamas and allows them to get a ceasefire and continue to hold hostages.

Israel is fighting to destroy Hamas in retaliation for a deadly Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people. Another 250 hostages were taken, with what is believed to be 100 hostages still alive in Gaza.


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