Biden Halts Arms Shipment to Israel Amidst Concerns Over Potential Rafah Attack
Biden Halts Arms Shipment to Israel Amidst Concerns Over Potential Rafah Attack

President Joe Biden has decided to halt the shipment of weapons to Israel temporarily due to concerns about a potential attack on the city of Rafah. This move comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Israel regarding the handling of the conflict.

The weapons that have been withheld include around 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs. These munitions were feared to be used in an assault on Rafah, where over a million residents in the Gaza Strip have sought refuge amidst the ongoing conflict.

This decision marks the first time since the Hamas-led terrorist attack on October 7th that President Biden has utilized his authority to restrict arms transfers as a means to influence Israel's actions in the conflict. Some Democratic allies of Biden in Congress have been advocating for a limitation or cessation of arms shipments to Israel, a move the President had previously resisted due to his firm support for efforts to combat Hamas.

Although Israeli officials had disclosed the pause in weapons shipments to Axios earlier, U.S. officials had not confirmed it until now. This delay in confirmation reflects the mounting frustration among U.S. officials over Israel's apparent disregard for American warnings against launching a major operation in Rafah, which could result in significant civilian casualties.

While Israel has not explicitly indicated plans for an assault on Rafah, they have evacuated approximately 110,000 civilians from the area and conducted airstrikes in response to recent Hamas rocket attacks. Israeli authorities have characterized the entry of tanks into Rafah and the seizure of the city's border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday as a limited operation aimed at neutralizing Hamas fighters and infrastructure linked to the rocket attack.

Despite the pause in certain weapons shipments, the Biden administration has not suspended all aid to Israel. Additionally, a final decision has yet to be made regarding the withheld bombs. However, the administration recently approved a significant tranche of aid totaling $827 million in weapons and equipment, intending to allocate "every dollar" appropriated by Congress to support Israel.

Concerns about the potential impact of heavy bombs in densely populated areas like Rafah, where numerous civilians have been displaced, have been cited by U.S. officials as a primary reason for the temporary halt in arms shipments.

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