Top Hamas commander killed in Israeli airstrike: White House

Israel killed Hamas’s No. 3 commander in an airstrike last week, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday.

“Israel has made significant progress against Hamas. They’ve broken a significant number of Hamas battalions [and] killed thousands of Hamas fighters including senior commanders. Hamas’s number three, Marwan Issa, was killed in an Israeli operation last week,” Sullivan said, adding that the remaining top leaders “are in hiding likely deep in the Hamas tunnel network.”

Issa, the deputy of Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas’ military division, helped plan the Oct. 7 attack against Israel, the Israel Defense Forces claimed last week.

Sullivan’s comments came as he relayed a call earlier Monday between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the two discussed Israel’s plans for Rafah.

During the call — the first in weeks between the two leaders amid mounting tensions over Israel’s handling of its war in Gaza — Netanyahu agreed to send senior officials to Washington, D.C., this week to discuss potential military plans in Rafah.

Israel has indicated it will soon launch a major operation in the city, where more than 1 million Palestinian civilians have sought refuge since the start of the war in October. The city also serves as the primary entry point for humanitarian assistance into Gaza from Egypt and Israel.

U.S. officials, however, have warned Israel that any significant attack on the area would be a mistake.

“The president explained why he is so deeply concerned about the prospect of Israel conducting major military operations in Rafah,” Sullivan said. “[Palestinian civilians] have nowhere else to go because Gaza’s other major cities have largely been destroyed. And Israel has not presented us or the world with a plan for how and where they would safely move those civilians, let alone feed and house them and ensure access to basic things like sanitation.”

Sullivan also said Biden pressed the importance of a “coherent and sustainable strategy” to defeat Hamas.

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