Israel-Gaza War: Will the American decision to suspend arms deliveries put an end to the assault on the Rafah “red line”?

But over the past two months, Washington has repeatedly complained about Israel’s failure to share its military plans showing how it could avoid mass casualties among the 1.4 million Palestinians that humanitarian agencies say of the United Nations, took refuge in Rafah, after fleeing fighting elsewhere in the small region. Gaza strip.

If the Israeli operation in Rafah continues without taking into account American concerns, “we are not going to provide the weapons and the artillery shells that were used,” Biden said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday. “Civilians have been killed in Gaza because of these bombs. This is simply false.

Analysts noted that Biden’s remarks are the first acknowledgment by Washington that U.S. weaponry has been used to kill Palestinian civilians.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, nearly 40,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in Israeli military operations since October.

Israel says around 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’ unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7.

A camp for internally displaced Palestinians near the border with Egypt, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: dpa

Israel believes the Palestinian militant group still holds 93 of the 252 people it took hostage in Gaza, as well as the bodies of at least 35 captives who have since died of disease or were inadvertently killed by the Defense Forces Israeli (IDF).

The Biden administration announced its decision to suspend the delivery of bombs after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday rejected a deal proposed by Egyptian and Qatari mediators to suspend hostilities in Gaza to facilitate the release of some Israeli hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Hamas. Israel.

Israeli ground forces entered the eastern part of Gaza’s Rafah area on Tuesday to carry out a 90-day operation against the four Hamas brigades based there.

Biden is the first US president to impose restrictions on arms shipments to Israel since Ronald Reagan imposed a six-year blockade on cluster bomb shipments in 1982, after a congressional investigation found that Israeli forces had dropped them on civilian population centers during their invasion of the country. Lebanon.

Smoke rises above a building at sunrise following Israeli bombardment on Friday in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP

The United States has provided Israel with billions of dollars in annual military aid since 1999, with the amount increasing over time to $3.8 billion.

A 2008 amendment to US arms export laws required the government to ensure that Israel enjoyed conventional military superiority over all its Middle Eastern rivals.

Citing unidentified officials, US media reported that other equipment supplies to Israel under review by the Biden administration include joint direct attack munitions kits used to convert so-called “bombs stupid” in precision-guided munitions.

However, the White House missed a Wednesday deadline to submit a report to Congress on whether Israel violated U.S. and international laws by using U.S. weapons against civilians in Gaza.

Since the start of the war in Gaza, the United States has supplied Israel with tens of thousands of precision-guided artillery and tank shells, as well as large quantities of other offensive weapons, including ammunition for tank machine guns, drone missiles and disposable shoulder shots. rockets towards the IDF.

As such, Israel already has the weapons and ammunition necessary to carry out the 90-day operation it launched on Tuesday, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Wednesday.


World leaders call for de-escalation after Iran launches air attack on Israel

World leaders call for de-escalation after Iran launches air attack on Israel

But Israel’s rhetoric masks the potentially decisive impact that further delays in arms deliveries currently being considered by Washington would have on its ability to wage a broader campaign in Gaza – or mount an offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon that members of Israel’s war cabinet have been there since the war with Hamas began in October.

The Israeli military “probably has sufficient reserves” of 2,000- and 500-pound bombs to use at Rafah “should they decide it was operationally necessary,” said Jonathan Panikoff, who served as deputy national intelligence officer American for the Middle East from 2015 to 2020. .

However, the IDF “may be reluctant to use them,” fearing that this would leave it with insufficient reserves of weapons that might be needed “in case the conflict spreads to Gaza or a conflict breaks out in the north with Hezbollah.” . “, he told This Week In Asia.

On the other hand, Washington’s desired change in Israeli military tactics “would almost certainly require proceeding at a much slower and more deliberate pace with the ground operation in order to be more focused,” said Panikoff, who currently serves as director from the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative to the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.

In turn, that would require a longer timetable – something from which Netanyahu “would almost certainly benefit personally as well politically,” he said.

An Israeli tank is seen near the Shalom Kerem crossing, in southern Israel, on the border with the Gaza Strip, on May 6. Photo: Xinhua

Monica Marks, a professor of Middle East politics at New York University in Abu Dhabi, said the United States has “enormous leverage with Israel, which is its main supporter as a major power” in terms of military defense and the “main political advocate” in international forums such as the UN.

She described Washington’s decision to suspend the shipment of 3,500 bombs as a “crucial step toward accountability and a pragmatic and self-serving foreign policy” toward Israel on the part of the United States.

Washington’s strategic objectives in the Middle East and North Africa region and even the world “are jeopardized by Israel’s invasion of Rafah, without any solid political plan for the aftermath of the war nor nothing close to a credible plan” to evacuate and protect civilians from Gaza, she said.

Even though the Biden administration has “pressed a crucial first button, it has not taken full advantage of American influence over Israel,” she told This Week In Asia.

“It was a warning shot across Israel’s bow, and one that it very easily could have avoided” if it had provided Washington with something close to a credible plan to protect civilians in the event of a disaster. invasion of Rafah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) greets US President Joe Biden upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv in October 2023. Photo: TNS

Both Biden and Netanyahu are under increasing domestic public pressure to end the war between Israel and Gaza.

Seven in ten likely US voters, including 83% of Biden’s Democratic Party supporters, support the US call for a permanent ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Gaza, according to the results of a opinion poll published by the advocacy group Data for. Progress Wednesday.

An opinion poll released Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 56 percent of Israeli Jews believe their government should prioritize freeing hostages held by Hamas over proceeding with Operation Rafah.

Marks said opinion polls in Israel have shown a shift over the past two months “towards a conclusion of the war and the recovery of the hostages.”

But extremists in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, “who could flee and thus collapse it, seem unconcerned.”

She said greater leverage from the United States may be needed to “place Israel on a path to preserving, or at least not actively destroying,” US strategic interests in the region, Marks said.

“And the Biden administration should be prepared to recalibrate based on Netanyahu’s response,” Marks added.