Biden threatens Israel with restrictions on arms supplies

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Written By Maya Cantina

Washington. US President Joe Biden has openly threatened Israel with curbs on arms supplies in the event of a major attack on the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. If the Israeli army enters densely populated parts of the city for an offensive, it will impact US arms supplies, Biden said in an interview with CNN television broadcast on Wednesday evening (local time). His government will not provide the weapons for a full-scale invasion of Rafah. The US has already withheld a shipment of ammunition from the Israeli army due to Israeli previous actions in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

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Israeli Rafah operation

Israeli soldiers entered parts of the city of Rafah on Tuesday evening. According to its own statements, the army also took control of the border crossing on the Palestinian side. According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Rafah operation is aimed at freeing Hamas’s remaining hostages and destroying the Islamist organization. As Israel’s most important ally, the US has repeatedly warned in recent days and weeks about a major ground offensive in Rafah, as hundreds of thousands of civilians seek protection there. In March, Biden spoke of a “red line” that Israel must not cross. The federal government has also warned against such a move.

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Now the US president argued that the Israeli army “has not yet entered the population centers – what they have done is close to the border.” Asked whether he believed the red line he had defined had not yet been crossed, Biden said: “Not yet.” And he made it clear to Netanyahu and his war cabinet that they could not count on American support “if they actually went to these population centers.” It is “simply wrong” – and the US cannot provide the weapons and artillery ammunition for it.

First consequence for Israel

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had recently confirmed that the US had held back an ammunition shipment to the Israeli military due to Israel’s actions in Rafah. Austin told a congressional hearing on Wednesday that the US government had made it clear from the start that Israel could not launch a major attack on Rafah without considering and protecting civilians in the area. While the US government assesses the situation, the supply of ammunition has been halted for the time being. He gave no details.

The White House was also very reserved and did not reveal any details. When asked about media reports that the withheld shipment would contain thousands of bombs, Biden’s spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said she would not comment.

America’s role in the war

Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a result of these bombs and other methods they use to attack population centers.

Joe Biden

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In the CNN interview, the US president was asked whether civilians in Gaza have been killed by the type of US bombs, the delivery of which is currently suspended. Biden said: “Civilians have been killed in the Gaza Strip as a result of these bombs and other methods they use to attack population centers.” Activists and protesters are likely to see this statement as confirmation of their criticism that the US administration and Biden personally received military support for Israel’s complicity in the suffering and deaths in the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, Biden made clear that the US government would continue to ensure that Israel has sufficient military equipment for its own defense, for example using the ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system. The United States would stand up for Israel’s security, he promised.

Israel releases images of alleged fighting in Rafah

Western countries and the United Nations have repeatedly warned that a major attack there would mean a humanitarian catastrophe.

Allies in a clinch

The US is Israel’s main protective power, supporting the country with billions of dollars every year, a significant portion of which goes to missile defense and other military technology. Relations between the two countries are more tense than ever in light of Israel’s military action in the Gaza Strip – and in particular due to the large number of civil war victims and the humanitarian catastrophe in the conflict zone.

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Biden had significantly tightened his language towards the Israeli leadership in recent weeks, repeatedly calling on Netanyahu to better protect civilians in Gaza and allow more aid deliveries to the closed coastal strip. In the CNN interview, he also complained that many people had forgotten what happened in Israel in October that caused the conflict.

Terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups carried out the worst massacre in the country’s history in Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people. 250 others were kidnapped. Israel responded with massive bombings and a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. According to Palestinian figures, more than 34,000 people have been killed there since the start of the war. The number – which can hardly be independently verified – does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

RND/dpa

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