3,500 Israel-bound bombs halted over Rafah use concerns, says US

US Prez Joe Biden paused an arms shipment to Israel last week to prevent US-made weapons from being used in a long-threatened assault on the city of Rafah, administration officials said Tuesday night, a sign of the growing rift between the US and Israel over the conduct of the war.
Biden withheld 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs that he feared could be dropped on Rafah, where more than a million displaced Gazans have taken refuge, the officials said.The administration is reviewing whether to hold back future transfers, including guidance kits that convert so-called dumb bombs into precision-guided munitions.
The decision to delay the delivery of the 3,500 bombs was the first time since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack that Biden has used his power to curtail arms as an instrument to influence Israel’s approach to the war that followed. A number of Biden’s Democratic allies in Congress have for weeks urged him to limit or halt arms shipments to Israel, something he had refused to do until now because of his strong support for the effort to destroy Hamas.
Israeli officials disclosed the weapons pause to Axios earlier this week, but US officials refused to confirm it until Tuesday night. The fact that they finally did so was a clear indication of how much frustration is growing among administration officials that their Israeli counterparts are not heeding US warnings against a major operation in Rafah. Confirmation came hours after Israel sent tanks into the city.
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin also, on Wednesday, confirmed the weapons delay, telling the Senate Appropriations Defence subcommittee that the US paused “one shipment of high payload munitions.” He said, “We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself. But that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah.” Austin told lawmakers, “It’s about having the right kinds of weapons for the task at hand. A small diameter bomb, which is a precision weapon, that’s very useful in a dense, built-up environment, but maybe not so much a 2,000-pound bomb that could create a lot of collateral damage.” He said the US wants to see Israel do “more precise” operations.
Axios, on Wednesday, reported that senior Israeli officials have warned their US counterparts that the Biden administration’s decision to pause weapons shipments could jeopardise hostage negotiations, citing two unidentified sources briefed on the matter.
One US official said the administration began reviewing arms shipments last month when it became clear that Israel seemed to be reaching a decision on a Rafah operation. Biden initially took the position that Israel should not attack Rafah without a plan to effectively minimise civilian casualties, but in recent weeks the White House has increasingly indicated that it did not believe such a plan was even possible.
Israel has not made clear whether it is on the verge of opening the assault on Rafah but has taken actions in the last couple of days that seemed to hint it was moving in that direction. Israeli forces ordered the evacuation of 110,000 civilians from Rafah and mounted air strikes against targets on the border areas of the city in response to Hamas rockets that killed four Israeli soldiers over the weekend. Israel called the entry of tanks into Rafah and seizure of the city’s border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday a limited operation to eliminate Hamas fighters and infrastructure tied to the rocket attack.
Biden made no mention of his decision to withhold the bombs on Tuesday, but repeated his support for Israel. “My commitment to the safety of the Jewish people, security of Israel, and its right to exist as an independent Jewish state is ironclad even when we disagree,” he said.
The administration is not halting all weapons to Israel. In fact, officials said the administration had just approved the latest tranche of aid amounting to $827 million worth of weapons and equipment. The administration intends to send “every dollar” of the money just appropriated by Congress, the officials said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl