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Biden Says US Would Cut Israel’s Military Aid If Rafah Invasion Continues

May 10, 2024
President Biden speaking in Wisconsin Wednesday. Photo source: Scott Olson/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday, 8 May, that he would suspend certain deliveries of American weapons to Israel if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decides on an invasion of Rafah, admitting that these arms have been employed in Gaza, resulting in civilian casualties.

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

The Biden administration has faced remarkable pressure, even from within the ranks of the Democratic Party, to restrict arms shipments due to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.

Until now, the president had resisted such demands and strongly backed Israel’s actions against Hamas. However, the prospect of a significant invasion of Rafah, a city in southern Gaza housing over a million Palestinian civilians, seems to have influenced the president’s decision-making.

For months, rights groups and humanitarian organizations have been compiling evidence of purported breaches of international law by the Israeli military in Gaza. Many of these incidents, suspected to involve weapons made in the U.S., include assaults on civilian areas, healthcare facilities, journalists, and humanitarian workers.

Israel’s military operations displayed a consistent disregard for international humanitarian law, according to an evaluation of numerous incident reports from Gaza, conducted by an independent panel of experts. Despite the foreseeable disproportionate harm to civilians and civilian structures, attacks were frequently carried out. The report, in agreement with the conclusions of rights organizations, also highlighted the substantial use of American weaponry in many instances.

Netanyahu, despite American opposition, insists that invading Rafah is imperative. However, the US-Israel relationship is now in a crisis, potentially impacting his strategy in the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

In response to Biden’s remarks, Netanyahu stated on Thursday, 9 May: “If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have said that, if necessary, we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails and with that same strength of spirit, with God’s help, together we will win.”

The New York Times suggests that although Israel possesses sufficient weaponry in its arsenals to undertake a large-scale invasion of the Gazan city, constraints imposed by the US could compel the Israeli military to limit the use of certain munitions.

American concerns have intensified since the Israeli army deployed tanks and troops into the eastern section of Rafah on Monday night, 6 May, seizing control of the primary border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. While Israeli forces have refrained from entering densely populated areas of the city, Netanyahu and others have indicated that the operation is necessary to eradicate Hamas units there.

In an official announcement on Tuesday, 7 May, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlined that this alarming escalation jeopardizes the lives of over a million Palestinians reliant on the crossing. It stressed that the Rafah border crossing serves as the primary conduit for vital supplies to the Gaza Strip and as a safe passage for the injured to access medical care, as well as for humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in Gaza.

Egypt urged Israel to show maximum restraint and refrain from brinkmanship, warning that such actions could have lasting consequences and disrupt ongoing efforts to achieve a lasting ceasefire in Gaza.

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