White House will share alternatives to ground operation in Rafah with Israelis

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a briefing at the White House in Washington

By Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House on Friday said it would share with Israeli officials alternatives for eliminating the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza without a ground offensive in Rafah that Washington says would be a "disaster."

White House spokesperson John Kirby made the comment ahead of talks expected some time next week in Washington between senior U.S. officials and a visiting Israeli delegation.

U.S. officials were expected to focus on urging Israel to avoid launching a ground offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza, where 1.5 million people have sought refuge in more than five months of fighting after Hamas militants' Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.

"We believe a major ground offensive is a mistake" and would be a "disaster," Kirby told a briefing.

Kirby said U.S. officials would share possible options with Israeli officials when they visit Washington, and said more details on the visit would be released in coming days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled on Friday that he would not be dissuaded from attempting to rout Hamas militants from Rafah, saying Israel was prepared to act alone.

Kirby noted that despite Netanyahu's comment, Israel had yet to launch its offensive in Rafah.

The United States and other nations have struggled to funnel large quantities of humanitarian assistance into Gaza and there are fears of famine there.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said there was no way for civilians to escape Rafah.

"There is nowhere for these people to go and be safe,” Harris told reporters as she departed for a trip to Puerto Rico and Florida.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Andreal Shalal; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman)