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Biden threatens Israel over Rafah operation, says it must choose between US weapons or expanded operation

US president also accuses Israel of killing civilians in Gaza with US munitions

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the League of Conservation Voters annual dinner in Washington, DC, June 14, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States would not supply weapons to Israel for a larger operation in populated regions of Rafah, located in southern Gaza.

“I’ve made it clear to Bibi and the War Cabinet, they’re not going to get our support if, in fact, they go into these population centers,” Biden said during an interview with CNN on Wednesday

Biden also stated that despite halting the weapons shipment to Israel, the U.S. administration remains committed to Israel's security.

“We’re not walking away from Israel’s security; we’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas.” 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed on Wednesday that the U.S. had delayed a weapons shipment to Israel over the Rafah operation. 

“We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself,” Austin emphasized, “but that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah.” 

Austin’s comments were made at a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. 

The U.S. defense secretary also raised the issue of protecting the civilian population in Gaza.  

“We’ve been very clear,” Austin stated, “that Israel shouldn’t launch a major attack into Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battlespace.” 

“As we have assessed the situation, we’ve paused one shipment of high-payload munitions.” 

Biden also addressed the issue of civilian casualties in the CNN interview, claiming that Israel had killed civilians using U.S. weapons. 

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

“I made it clear, that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone into Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not going to supply the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities that deal with that problem.” 

Biden also said that the U.S. would continue to “make sure Israel is secure.” 

“We’re going to continue to make sure that Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently, but it’s just wrong,” the president said, apparently referring to the use of weapons in civilian areas.

“We’re not going to – we're not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells used, that have been used."

In response to a question about Israel’s operations in Rafah to secure the border, Biden said: “They haven’t gone into the population centers, what they did is right on the border and it’s causing problems right now in terms of with Egypt, which I’ve worked very hard to make sure we have a relationship and help.” 

Biden said he doesn't believe Israel has crossed a red line yet, "but, we’ve held up the weapons. We’ve held up that one shipment, that was an old shipment, we’ve held that up.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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