Despite Cease-Fire Divide, Lloyd Austin Meets With Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant

( — On Tuesday, March 26, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, met with his American counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, at the Pentagon to discuss the ongoing situation in Gaza. This comes swiftly on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelling a delegation that was supposed to travel to Washington, D.C., this week after the U.S. abstained from a Security Council vote that called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. Netanyahu condemned the U.S. for not vetoing the resolution, which did not include any requirement of the release of hostages for the proposed ceasefire.

Ahead of the meeting, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Major General Pat Ryder said that the topics that Gallant and Austin would be covering would include Israel’s continued fight against the terrorist group Hamas, the release of the hostages, and the safety of the Palestinian civilians sheltering in Rafah. Later, Ryder characterized the meeting as a testament to U.S. “unwavering support” for the long-term security of Israel, adding that both Gallant and Austin were united in their interest in defeating Hamas.

However, there has been much concern internationally over the need to protect and aid civilians against military actions that may be taken by Israel in Rafah, where it is believed Hamas is sheltering both combatants and weapons. Hamas has a history of hiding in normally protected non-military target areas such as schools and hospitals, sometimes even using such locations to stash weapons and hostages. During the meeting, Austin told Gallant that while the U.S. supports Israel’s inherent right to defend themselves, they should consider alternatives to a ground operation in Rafah, which could endanger more than a million Palestinians.

Gallant emphasized the plight of the hostages and the need for Israel to defeat Hamas in a post on the social media platform X after the meeting with Austin. While the U.S. does not officially support Israel’s intent to launch a ground attack on Rafah, the Israeli government says they cannot defeat Hamas without doing so. Despite all the demands for a ceasefire, Hamas has not agreed to return the rest of the hostages. Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, says that Hamas still holds 134 hostages, several American, although officials in the country have indicated that 33 of them have died since being abducted.

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