US conveys concerns to Israel over Rafah ground operations

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has conveyed his concern to his Israeli counterpart about Israel's plan for a ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Austin met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Washington on Tuesday. The two discussed alternative approaches to the planned military operation.

Referring to the situation in the Gaza Strip, the US defense secretary described the number of civilian casualties as "far too high" and the amount of humanitarian aid as "far too low."

Austin also said, "The safety of the 1.5 million Palestinian civilians in Rafah is also a top priority of the United States."

He added that "operations in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and implementable plan that ensures the safety of and humanitarian support for civilians."

Gallant said the US and Israel need to join hands in their military and diplomatic efforts to increase pressure on the Islamic group Hamas, such as through hostage release negotiations.

Israeli forces are intensifying attacks on several hospitals in the enclave where they say Hamas fighters have based their operations.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said on Tuesday that Al-Amal hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis "has stopped working completely."

On the same day, Gaza health authorities said the Israeli military is also stepping up its encirclement of the enclave's largest Al-Shifa hospital.