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Biden says U.S. won't supply Israel with weapons for Rafah offensive
Posted by Temmy
Thu, May 09, 2024 12:56pm

Biden says U.S. won't supply Israel with weapons for Rafah offensive

President Biden said Wednesday that the U.S. will not provide Israel with weapons for an offensive in Rafah and at the same time acknowledged that Israel has used powerful American-made weapons in deadly attacks in Gaza.

In an interview with CNN, the president was asked about the U.S. pause last week of a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs to Israel and whether those bombs were "used to kill civilians in Gaza." Mr. Biden replied, "Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs."

He went on to say that if the Israelis "go into Rafah," then "I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah." In addition to the bombs, the president said such weapons would also include artillery shells.

But the president did say the U.S. would continue to support the Iron Dome, the system that protects Israel from rocket fire, and ensure Israel is able to "respond to attacks" originating in the Middle East.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations called Mr. Biden's threat to stop some arms supplies to Israel if it invades Rafah "very disappointing," Agence France-Presse reports.

"This is a difficult and very disappointing statement to hear from a president to whom we have been grateful since the beginning of the war," Gilad Erdan told Israeli public broadcaster Kan radio.

Former President and presumptive GOP 2024 presidential nominee Donald Trump said in a social media post that Mr. Biden is "taking the side of these terrorists, just like he has sided with the Radical Mobs taking over our college campuses, because his donors are funding them."

The U.S. last week paused a shipment of weapons to Israel that included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs as Israeli leaders neared a decision to launch an operation in Rafah, a southern Gaza city where more than 1 million people are taking shelter after fleeing other parts of Gaza.

As the president indicated, the administration is particularly concerned that the larger bombs in the shipment could do severe damage in urban areas, a point that a senior administration official also made earlier Wednesday. The U.S. has long held that Israel shouldn't launch a major ground operation in Rafah, and the official said that Israel has not sufficiently addressed U.S. concerns about humanitarian needs in Rafah and how to approach Hamas. When Israeli leaders appeared close to a decision on Rafah, the Biden administration began to review upcoming transfers of weapons that could be used in Rafah, and as a result, paused one shipment last week, the official said.

Although Israeli tanks on Tuesday took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah border near Egypt, Mr. Biden said he did not consider that to be reason enough to halt weapons shipments, since Israel's military had not "gone into the population centers."

"I've made it clear to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and the war cabinet, they're not going to get our support, if in fact they go in these population centers."

Still, the seizure of the Rafah crossing means one of Gaza's two key aid corridors is shut.

Israel has long been threatening a ground assault on Rafah, and confirmed the beginning of the Rafah operation after saying a cease-fire proposal Hamas agreed to earlier this week was "far from meeting Israel's core demands."

Cease-fire talks are continuing in the Middle East, and CIA director Bill Burns was in Israel Wednesday for talks with Netanyahu.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress Wednesday of the pause in the weapons shipment and acknowledged the administration is reviewing some near-term security assistance to Israel in the context of unfolding events in Rafah. Several senators were upset about the delay, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, who called the move "obscene" and "absurd."

Austin told the senators that a final decision has not been made on what to do with the shipment, but there are measures the administration is looking at regarding Rafah. He told senators 2,000-pound bombs can cause a lot of collateral damage and the U.S. aims to protect the civilians in the city.

Meanwhile, Israel's military announced Tuesday the launch of "targeted strikes" against Hamas in Rafah, which Israel has said is Hamas' last stronghold, after Israel's War Cabinet approved a military operation in the city.


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