Joe Biden says US will stop some arms shipments to Israel if it invades Gaza city of Rafah | US News

President Joe Biden warned Israel in his strongest public statements yet that the United States would stop supplying it with certain weapons if Israel invades the southern Gaza town of Rafah.

If Israeli the armed forces launch a general assault on the city, the last Hamas bastion of the besieged enclave, the US president declared “we are not going to provide the weapons and the artillery shells used, which were used”.

In an interview with CNNMr. Biden acknowledged that American weapons were used by Israel, killing civilians in Gaza during its seven-month offensive aimed at destroying Hamas.

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IDF launches new operation in Rafah

This follows his decision last week to suspend sending 2,000-pound heavy bombs to Israel over concerns about an imminent attack on Rafah, following public and private warnings from his administration.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza because of these bombs and other ways that they attack population centers,” Mr. Biden told CNN.

“I made it clear that if they went to Rafah – they haven’t done it yet – if they went to Rafah, I would not provide them with the weapons that were used historically to deal with Rafah, to take care of cities, which deal with this problem.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed the arms delay on Wednesday, saying the US had suspended “a delivery of high payload munitions.”

“We will continue to do what is necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself,” Austin said.

“But that said, we are currently looking at some short-term security assistance shipments in the context of the events unfolding in Rafah.”

Israel achieved military operations in Rafah earlier this week in what he described as “targeted strikes.”

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Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah.  Photo: Reuters
Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Rafah. Photo: Reuters

Palestinians wait to receive food prepared by a charity kitchen in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.  Photo Reuters
Palestinians wait to receive food prepared by a charity kitchen in Rafah. Photo: Reuters

The death toll rises

Nearly 34,800 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed so far in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. It makes no difference between civilians and combatants.

The war began when Hamas stormed into Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and kidnapping about 250 others, 133 of whom are believed to remain in captivity, according to Israeli counts.

Palestinians flee Rafah.  Photo: Reuters
Palestinians flee Rafah on a cart pulled by donkeys.  Photo: Reuters
Palestinians flee Rafah. Photos: Reuters

The United States will continue to provide defensive systems

Mr. Biden told CNN that the United States would continue to provide defensive systems to Israel, including for its Iron Dome defense system.

“We will continue to ensure that Israel is secure with respect to Iron Dome and its ability to respond to recent attacks from the Middle East,” he said.

“But that’s just wrong. We’re not going to — we’re not going to provide the weapons and the artillery shells.”

It comes as Mr Biden’s administration is due to issue a formal verdict this week, the first of its kind, on whether Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid violated international and American laws.

A move against Israel would put additional pressure on Mr. Biden to limit the flow of weapons and money to the Israeli military.