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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Biden issues Rafah ultimatum to Israel

West Jerusalem will be deprived of “offensive” US weapons if it launches a full-scale invasion

President Joe Biden has admitted that at least some Palestinian civilians in Gaza were killed by US-made bombs – and has vowed to halt the supply of any weapons that Israel could actively use in another major military operation in the southern city of Rafah.

The US leader’s remarks come after Israeli tanks and troops entered the eastern districts of Rafah on Monday night, seizing the main border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This was accompanied by airstrikes on the densely populated city.

Read more: Inonu University students stand in solidarity with Gaza

However, Biden believes that Israel has yet to cross Washington’s red line.

“They haven’t gotten into the population centers. What they did was right on the border,” Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett in an interview on Wednesday.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities – that deal with that problem,” Biden added.

“We’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells,” he said, while reiterating Washington’s commitment to Israel’s defense. “We’re going to continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently.”

Read more: Hamas, CIA director to hold talks in Cairo on Gaza truce

The US has already paused a shipment of weapons to Israel last week due to concerns over the looming ground operation in Rafah, according to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. However, Washington has not decided on the final fate of the arms.

The paused delivery reportedly included thousands of US-made 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs indiscriminately used by Israel in its war with Hamas.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Biden said.

The pause in arms supplies would mark the first known instance of the US withholding a weapons delivery to the Jewish state since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and West Jerusalem’s retaliatory offensive, according to the Financial Times.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called the pause “very disappointing,” but told Channel 12 News that he does not believe the US will actually stop supplying arms to Israel.