Middle East

Netanyahu doubles down on plan for Rafah offensive after meeting with top US diplomat. Catch up here

From CNN staff

US Secretary of State Blinken traveled to Israel and met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday, as part of an intensive diplomatic push to reach a “sustained and immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and deter an Israeli offensive into the southern city of Rafah.

However, following the meeting, Netanyahu publicly doubled down on his commitment to carry out an offensive — with or without US support. Blinken said this offensive would risk “further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters she doesn’t see a safe way for civilians to evacuate Rafah ahead of the possible offensive. “There is nowhere for those people to go,” Harris said. “One and a half million people of a population of 2.2 million people who are now in that area — and let’s remember why they are there, because they were told to go there.”

Here are some other top headlines:

  • US ambassador calls for immediate ceasefire: The US proposed a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for “an immediate and sustained ceasefire … in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.” Analysts said it was a major departure from US policy on Israel during the war, as the resolution included phrasing that the US was unwilling to use before as Israel’s most prominent defender on the world stage.
  • Russia and China veto US resolution: Still, Russia and China vetoed the draft resolution. Algeria also voted against it. Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the US decision to propose a resolution now is “sluggish,” as the US has previously vetoed ceasefire proposals.
  • Death toll surpasses 32,000 in Gaza: The total death toll in Gaza since October 7 now stands at 32,070, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, which reported that 82 people were killed the over the past 24 hours in the strip. An additional 74,298 people have been injured, the ministry said. CNN cannot independently verify the casualty figures in Gaza.
  • More funding resumes for UNRWA: Finland will restart donations to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), according to the Finnish public broadcaster Yle. Several Western countries had suspended funding after Israel alleged that 12 out of 13,000 employees participated in the October 7 attacks. CNN cannot confirm the allegations. Finland’s decision to resume funding for UNRWA comes after Canada, Australia, the European Union and others also resumed funding.

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