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Israel has informed the United States about the plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians before a possible operation in Rafah.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Israel reported this week Biden administration officials about a plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians ahead of a possible operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah aimed at rooting out Hamas militants, according to U.S. officials familiar with the talks.

The officials, who were not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive exchange, said the plan outlined by the Israelis did not change the U.S. administration’s view that moving ahead with an operation in Rafah would jeopardize to too many innocent Palestinian civilians. at risk.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to carry out a military operation in Rafah despite warnings from President Joe Biden and other Western officials that doing so would result in more civilian deaths and worsen an already dire humanitarian crisis.

The Biden administration has said there could be consequences for Israel if it goes ahead with the operation without a credible plan to safeguard civilians.

Around 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge in the southern city of Gaza as the territory has been devastated by the war that began on October 7 after Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking around of 250 hostages.

The United Nations humanitarian aid agency said on Friday that hundreds of thousands of people would be “at imminent risk of death” if Israel goes ahead with the attack on Rafah. The border town is a critical entry point for humanitarian aid and is filled with displaced Palestinians, many of them in densely packed tent camps.

The officials added that the evacuation plan reported by the Israelis was not finalized and both sides agreed to continue discussing the matter.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday that the Israelis have not revealed to the White House any “comprehensive” plan for a possible operation in Rafah. The operation, however, has been discussed during recent calls between Biden and Netanyahu, as well as during recent virtual conversations with senior Israeli and American national security officials.

“We want to make sure those conversations continue because it’s important to protect those Palestinian lives, those innocent lives,” Jean-Pierre said.

The revelation of Israel’s continued pressure to carry out an operation in Rafah came as CIA Director William Burns arrived Friday in Egypt, where negotiators are trying to seal a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas is considering the latest ceasefire and hostage release proposal put forward by American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators, who seek to prevent the Rafah operation.

They have publicly pressured Hamas to accept the terms of the deal that would lead to a prolonged ceasefire and an exchange of Israeli hostages taken captive on October 7 and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hamas has said it will send a delegation to Cairo in the coming days to further discuss the offer, although it has not specified when.

Israel and its allies have sought to increase pressure on Hamas over the hostage negotiations. Signaling that Israel is continuing to move forward with its planning for an operation in Rafah could be a tactic to push the militants to close the deal.

Netanyahu said earlier this week that Israeli forces would enter Rafah, which Israel says is Hamas’s last stronghold, regardless of whether a truce deal for the hostages is reached. His comments appeared aimed at appeasing his nationalist ruling partners, and it was unclear whether they would have any bearing on any emerging deal with Hamas.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the region, including Israel, this week and called the latest proposal “extraordinarily generous” and said “now is the time to act.”