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Harris says US has not ruled out 'consequences' if Israel invades Rafah

In a wide-ranging new interview with ABC News, Vice President Kamala Harris suggested there could be "consequences" for Israel if it moves ahead with a planned invasion of Rafah in its pursuit of Hamas fighters.

The city, on Gaza's southern border with Egypt, is thought to currently have some 1.4 million people in it.

According to the U.N., many Palestinians fled there from elsewhere in the territory amid the ongoing war, sparked by Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack.

"We have been clear in multiple conversations and in every way that any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake," Harris told ABC News' Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott in part of the interview that aired Sunday on "This Week."

"Let me tell you something: I have studied the maps. There's nowhere for those folks to go," Harris said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month he'd approved a plan to invade Rafah, an announcement that prompted President Joe Biden to relay what the White House called "deep concerns" about the safety of the many civilians sheltering in the city.

Tens of thousands of people have died in Gaza so far, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there.

Netanyahu has maintained that going into Rafah is necessary to dismantle Hamas in the wake of their attack; Israeli forces also insist they can move civilians out of the battlegrounds and toward "humanitarian islands" -- but the U.S., which is a major supporter of Israel's military, has sharply criticized the possibility of a large-scale incursion.

Scott on Sunday pressed the vice president, asking if America would consider "consequences" if Netanyahu went forward -- something he said he was willing to do despite the opposition.

"Well, we're going to take it one step at a time, but we've been very clear in terms of our perspective on whether or not that should happen," Harris said.

Scott followed up: "Are you ruling out that there would be consequences from the United States?"

"I am ruling out nothing," Harris replied.

In the interview, Harris was also asked about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's call for new elections in Israel, which Netanyahu decried as "wholly inappropriate" meddling in his country's politics.

Biden has not echoed Schumer's position but did praise the senator's overall comments as a "good speech."

Harris told Scott on "This Week" that "I will not speak for Sen. Schumer, but we are very clear that that is on the Israeli people to make a decision about when they will have an election and who, of course, they elect to lead their government. That's for them to say."

Scott asked Harris if she thought Netanyahu was "an obstacle to peace," as Schumer had said.

"I believe that we have got to continue to enforce what we know to be and should be the priorities in terms of what is happening in Gaza," Harris said without directly answering the question. "We've been very clear that far too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. We have been very clear that Israel and the Israeli people and Palestinians are entitled to an equal amount of security and dignity."

PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris Visits Site Of Parkland School Shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Vice President Kamala Harris Visits Site Of Parkland School Shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Separately, addressing a domestic issue, Harris would not rule out executive action to tackle the high number of migrants at the southern border. The president has been considering tightening asylum restrictions, ABC News previously reported.

Polling shows Biden gets low marks on immigration, which is a top issue for many Americans. Republicans have continued to hammer away at the president over the border.

Though Harris maintained that Congress has the "immense power and authority and responsibility" to address it -- after conservative lawmakers recently failed to agree on a bipartisan immigration deal in the Senate -- she also said the Biden administration is going to do "what we can."

"As of right now, is that executive action on the border still on the table?" Scott asked. "Can we see that?"

Harris initially pointed back to Capitol Hill, saying, "That does not absolve the fact that the real fix is going to be when Congress acts."

When Scott pressed again, the vice president said, "Yes, for consideration."

The interview took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the site of the Valentine's Day mass shooting in 2018 that killed 17 students and staff.

Harris was visiting the school -- which remains an active crime scene -- with some of the victims' families.

"What happened here six years ago is tragic by every measure," Harris told Scott.

She later said it was "important" that she visited the school "to give witness to how [gun violence in America] affects real people."

"We have to think of this as more than statistics and we certainly have to understand that we should have empathy that requires us to know this can't be the subject of political gamesmanship," the vice president said.

She said there were "reasonable" measures that could be taken to tackle gun violence, including so-called red flag laws that a 2022 law provided further state funding to implement.

But, as Scott noted, only six states have used that money.

"That's why it's been a challenge," Harris said. "I'm gonna assume that they need a little motivation, and hopefully we've been able to bring it to them."

Harris and President Biden have ramped up their travel in recent weeks ahead of an expected general election rematch with former President Donald Trump. But both of them have yet to commit to debating Trump or his future running mate.

"Who am I debating?" Harris said to Scott.

"If you're comparing yourself to the alternative, and that is really the crux of a lot of what the Biden campaign message is, isn't there a case to be made that the best way to do that is to get out on the debate stage?" Scott asked Harris.

"Well, we'll get to that at some point, but you are absolutely right," the vice president said, "this election in November is binary."

Harris says US has not ruled out 'consequences' if Israel invades Rafah originally appeared on abcnews.go.com