Biden says US will not transfer offensive weapons if Israel invades Rafah

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that the United States would not supply certain weapons and artillery shells to Israel if its army overran the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million people live.

Biden said in a statement that if the Israeli army launched a ground attack on Rafah, the administration would not provide “the weapons that were historically used to deal with Rafah and to deal with the cities.” InInterview on CNN.

“We will not supply used weapons and artillery shells,” Biden said.

The move would represent a shift in US policy toward the war, although Biden said the United States “will continue to ensure Israel’s security with respect to Iron Dome and its ability to respond to attacks.”

Biden also said Israel has used 2,000-pound bombs — the type his administration parked in a planned shipment last week — to kill Palestinian civilians.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a result of those bombs and other ways they target population centers,” he said when asked about the halting of US weapons shipments to Israel.

The White House stopped a shipment of assault weapons last week that included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, according to a senior administration official, NBC News reported.

An Israeli official told NBC News that there is deep frustration in the Israeli government over the decision as the IDF prepares to launch an expected ground offensive in Rafah.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said that the American pause was “a very disappointing, even frustrating, decision.” He indicated in an interview with Israeli TV news Channel 12 that this step stems from internal political pressure on Biden.

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The right-wing Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, expressed a more stringent reaction. “Hamas ❤️ Biden,” he said in a post on the X website, drawing swift criticism from Israeli opposition leader, Yair Lapid, and others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israeli army would enter the city “whether with or without” an agreement with Hamas.

Israel is demanding that Rafah be isolated from the ceasefire agreement, according to four current American officials and a former official familiar with the discussions.

The officials said that Netanyahu’s government refuses to agree to an agreement unless it can proceed with military operations in Rafah, even during a ceasefire.

An Israeli official denied this characterization, citing recent statements made by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in which he said, “This operation will continue until we eliminate Hamas in the Rafah area and the entire Gaza Strip or until the first hostage returns.”

Biden reiterated his opposition to the Rafah attack in his calls with Netanyahu, according to White House readouts of their conversations.

Biden also touched on his administration’s work with Arab countries regarding the war between Israel and Hamas, saying in an interview with CNN that “five leaders in the Arab community are ready to help rebuild Gaza, and are ready to help with the transition to a two-state solution.”

In response to a question about whether the leaders would help govern the region, Biden said they would work to “maintain security and peace while working to form a real, non-corrupt Palestinian Authority.”

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