Rafah offensive by Israel didn’t cross Biden’s ‘red line,’ White House says

White House officials told reporters that an Israeli airstrike on Sunday in Rafah that killed two Hamas officials and dozens of civilians did not violate Biden’s “red lines,” primarily because the strike was not a large-scale ground operation.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, speaking to reporters at a White House press conference on Tuesday afternoon, was fielded a series of questions about the attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah and when the U.S. stance on Israeli attacks might change.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that Israel carried out airstrikes on a Hamas compound in Rafah on Sunday.

A reporter asked Kirby about the attack on the encampment in a populated area.

Israeli tanks enter central Rafah for first time in Gaza war

An Israeli military strike on Sunday killed a Hamas terrorist and sparked a raging fire that has killed civilians nearby. (Image from Reuters/Reuters TV TPX Today)

Kirby told reporters that the entire Rafah region is a densely populated area and that one million people have been evacuated.

The reporter asked why the strike did not violate the “red line” the president had set out.

“We’re not looking for a major ground operation,” Kirby said. “I don’t see that happening at this point.”

Kirby went on to say that the White House does not want any innocent lives to be taken.

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National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby made the remarks at a regular press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

Reporters continued to press Kirby on the matter, asking whether Biden had a personal threshold he needed to reach before stepping in or changing his position.

“The president has been very clear and forthright about our expectations regarding Israeli operations in Rafah, particularly in Gaza, and we do not support, and will not support, a large-scale ground operation in Rafah,” Kirby said. “We have been consistent on that, and the president has said that if that were to occur, we may have to make a different decision about assistance. At this point, that has not occurred.”

Kirby explained that a large-scale ground operation involves the movement of tens or even thousands of troops “on a massive scale” in a series of coordinated maneuvers against various targets on the ground.

Israeli airstrikes in Rafah kill two top Hamas commanders and dozens of civilians

Smoke rises from Rafa

Smoke rises after Israeli forces fire during an Israeli military operation in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Monday. (Reuters/Hatem Khaled)

Kirby said U.S. officials have never seen Israeli forces act in such a way.

He called Sunday’s incident a “very tragic” airstrike and said it was not the first in recent days or weeks.

“When there were other airstrikes in Rafah a week or so ago that didn’t result in civilian casualties, nobody asked me about the red line,” Kirby said. “This is an airstrike. It’s not a major ground operation. This is not it. Now, we’re also not taking anything at face value. We’re not on the ground.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania) was asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday whether Israel had crossed a U.S. “red line” regarding future arms support after the Rafah attack.

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John Fetterman

Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) speaks about his support for Israel. (Fox News)

Fetterman, who has angered the left with his strong support for Israel, said the images from the region were “heartbreaking” but showed the harsh truth of the conflict.

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Fetterman called Israel a key ally and said he would absolutely trust and work with someone like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Hamas leaders or other key figures in the region.

“The situation in Gaza is very difficult. But Hamas [cannot] “If this situation will lead to lasting peace, then we should be authorized to operate,” Fetterman said.

Fox News’ Nicholas Lanham, Bradford Betts and Trey Yingst contributed to this report.