Middle East

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expected to travel to Israel Friday

From CNN's Lauren Izso

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to Israel Friday, an Israeli official told CNN.

Blinken’s visit to Israel comes at a critical time, as US and Israeli officials are likely to discuss alternatives to a ground offensive of Gaza’s southern city of Rafah next week, the White House said.

On Monday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Biden had asked Netanyahu to send a team to Washington “to hear U.S. concerns about Israel’s current Rafah planning and to lay out an alternative approach that would target key Hamas elements in Rafah and secure the Egypt-Gaza border without a major ground invasion.”

But the Israeli statement Tuesday said that Netanyahu “is determined to act in Rafah in order to finally eliminate the remaining Hamas battalions, while providing humanitarian solutions to the civilian population.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will also host Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant at the Pentagon next week, according to a defense official.

The official added the meeting comes after Austin extended an invitation for an official visit and is separate from the meeting announced after the call between Biden and Netanyahu.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Kylie Atwood and Alex Marquardt contributed reporting to this post.

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