Biden said he will suspend some weapons supplies if Israel attacks Rafah

Biden said he will suspend some weapons supplies if Israel attacks Rafah
Biden said he will suspend some weapons supplies if Israel attacks Rafah

The president of the United States, Joe Biden (REUTERS/Nathan Howard/File Photo)

President Joe Biden warned this Wednesday that it will stop supplying Israel “artillery shells” and other weapons if it launches a major offensive against the city of Rafah, in an unprecedented warning from Washington.

“If they enter Rafah – they have not entered Rafah yet – if they enter Rafah, I will not supply the weapons that have been used (…) against the cities,” Biden said in an interview with CNN.

“We are not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells that have been used” in Israel’s war against the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, he said.

“Civilians have died in Gaza as a result of these bombs” and that “is wrong,” he replied when the network asked him about the suspension last week of the delivery of a shipment of bombs to Israel.

It is the first time the 81-year-old Democrat has publicly placed conditions on US military support for Israel, a key ally in the Middle East.

However, he assured that The United States will continue to “ensure that Israel is protected by the Iron Dome,” its anti-aircraft defense shield.

Asked about the military operation that Israel has launched in Rafah, a town in the south of the Strip where more than a million Palestinians have taken refuge, Biden said that it did not affect “population centers,” thus implying that it was not of a major offensive that required a reaction on their part.

“I have made it clear to ‘Bibi’ and the war cabinet: They are not going to count on our support, if in fact they attack those population centers,” said the US president, referring to the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname.

Rafah (Gaza), 05/07/2024.- Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, this Tuesday. The Israeli army declared that it carried out “selective attacks” against Hamas targets in the east of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip (EFE/ Haitham Imad)

Speaking to a congressional committee, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed that the shipment of 1,800 2,000-pound (907 kg) bombs and another 1,700 500-pound (226 kg) bombs was frozen last week.

Biden took on the role of defender of Israel following the unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7, but his relationship with Netanyahu has been strained.

That day, members of the Islamist group killed 1,170 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 250, according to figures from Israeli authorities.

Israel estimates that, following an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in November, 128 people remained captive in Gaza, 36 of whom are feared dead.

Israel launched a retaliatory offensive that has already left 34,844 dead in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Ministry of Health of the territory, governed since 2007 by Hamas.

It remains to be seen what effect the US warning has.

Jon Altermanof the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, estimates that American discontent surely plays a role, but “the Israelis are also making their own calculations.”

Another expert, Raphael Cohenof the RAND research center, believes that “despite Netanyahu’s rhetoric, “Israel is taking American pressure very seriously.”. He cites as an example the opening of several border crossings in the Gaza Strip due to pressure from Washington, the last of them in Kerem Shalom.

“That said, I think it will be difficult for Netanyahu to completely abandon the Rafah operation,” he adds.

(With information from AFP)

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