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Biden’s national security adviser heads to Israel amid Netanyahu rift

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 13, 2023.Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesWashington

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser is set to meet with top Israeli officials over the next two days as the White House pushes the Israelis to be more precise in their operations against Hamas in Gaza.

The visit by Jake Sullivan comes as a public rift has opened between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza and differences in opinion about what a future for Palestinians should look like after combat operations end. Sullivan is also set to discuss efforts to release the eight American hostages who remain under Hamas control.

Sullivan will meet Netanyahu, along with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and top Israeli military leaders, throughout Thursday and Friday.

Sullivan will conduct “extremely serious conversations” with Israeli officials during his visit, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a White House briefing Wednesday. Sullivan will discuss with the Israelis “efforts to be more surgical and more precise and to reduce harm to civilians,” Kirby said.

He will also discuss the return of hostages taken by Hamas. Eight Americans are among the more than 100 hostages being held by Hamas since the group’s October 7 attack on Israel. More than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals were killed in the attack.

More than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 50,000 injured in the ensuing Israeli response, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry.

Biden met with family members of the eight American hostages at the White House on Wednesday.

Prior to his arrival in Israel, Sullivan traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a person familiar with the matter said.

In Saudi Arabia, he planned to discuss the broader diplomatic efforts undertaken by the Biden administration to maintain stability in the region, the official said, including efforts to deter Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. He also attempted to build on work that had been underway prior to the October 7 attacks on normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which had included steps toward building peace with the Palestinians.

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