The United States has made its views clear to Israel regarding a large-scale ground operation in Rafah, a State Department spokesman said today, in the first reaction from Washington since Israeli forces took control of the border crossing with Gaza.

We continue to believe that a hostage deal is in the best interest of the Israeli and Palestinian people. It will lead to an immediate ceasefire and allow an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza,” a spokesman said in an email.

President Joe Biden on Monday warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against launching an attack on the southern city of Gaza as he stepped up pressure for a ceasefire.

The Rafah crossing is the main route for aid to enter the besieged enclave and the exit for those able to escape to Egypt. Both Rafah and the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza, the other main aid entry point, have been closed for the past two days. Although smaller entry points still operate, blocking them is a blow to efforts to keep the food, medicine and other supplies that keep Gaza’s population alive.

The Israeli military claimed it seized the crossing after receiving information that it was being “used for terrorist purposes” while claiming that the area around the crossing had been used by Hamas to launch a mortar attack that killed four Israeli soldiers at the Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday.

APE-SKAIGR