• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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US to stop arms shipment to Israel if it invades Rafah


The United States has said it may halt the supply of some of its weapons to Israel if it launches a major ground operation in the Gaza city of Rafah.

President Joe Biden made this known during an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

“If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah,” Biden said.

He added that he would “continue to make sure Israel is secure”.

Despite the US’ firm and vocal opposition, Israel appears poised to mount a large-scale invasion of Rafah in the Southern Gaza Strip.

The congested part of southern Gaza is Hamas’s last major stronghold in the territory.

US officials have warned that an operation in the city – where the population has swelled with refugees from other parts of Gaza – could lead to extensive civilian casualties.

“We’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells,” Biden further said.

He said the US did not define the current situation in Rafah as a ground operation. “They haven’t gone into the population centres. What they did is right on the border,” he said.

“But I’ve made it clear to [Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu] and the war cabinet, they’re not going to get our support, if in fact they go in these population centres.”

Admitting that US weapons had been used by Israel to kill civilians in Gaza, Biden said should Israel cross the “red line”, it would cut off some of its arms supplies.

This warning follows the recent Gaza ceasefire proposal from mediators which was agreed on by Hamas, a Palestinian militant but Israel said the terms did not meet its demands.

The comments amount to the president’s strongest warning yet over a potential ground invasion of Rafah and mark the first time he has said the US could stop shipments of American weapons to Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel’s ambassador to the UN said the country was “very disappointed” by Biden’s intervention.

“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 said.

The US has already delayed a shipment of thousands of bombs to Israel and has said it is reviewing future deliveries.

Since the seven-month-old war started, more than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, according to Gaza health officials. The U.N. has said famine is imminent in the enclave.

The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.