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US suspends sending bombs to Israel, reconsiders support for Rafah invasion, Defense Secretary Austin says


The United States has suspended an arms shipment to Israel, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday, in what is seen as a warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against an all-out invasion of Rafah.

President Joe Biden’s decision to delay the delivery of 3,500 bombs to a US Middle East ally was the first time he has used his executive power to influence Israel’s approach to its war with Hamas.

Austin told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that the Biden administration’s position has been clear «from the very beginning that Israel should not launch a major assault on Rafah without considering and protecting the civilians who are in that combat space.»

«Once we assessed the situation, we suspended one shipment of high payload ammunition,» he added.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed that the US has delayed the delivery of weapons to Israel

The defense minister went on to say that «we have not made a final decision on how to proceed with the shipment.»

And he stressed that the administration is «absolutely committed to continuing to support Israel in its right to defend itself.»

Israel downplayed the administration’s decision to seize 1,800 2,000-pound and 1,700 500-pound bombs. Biden officials feared the weapons would be used against refugees in Rafah.

The administration is also reviewing whether to withhold future transfers, including guidance kits that convert so-called silent bombs into precision-guided munitions, according to reports.

Many Democrats have urged the president to limit arms shipments to Israel out of fear that they will be used against innocent civilians.

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Israel relies heavily on the US to supply its military. Many of the drones used to repel Iranian missiles last month were American-made, and American forces helped counter the bombing.

Biden’s decision comes as he has struggled to balance his support for Israel following the October 7 Hamas attack with efforts to protect the Palestinian civilian population.

About a million refugees crowded into Rafah. Biden warned Netanyahu on Monday against a full-scale assault on Rafah.

But on Monday, the Israeli army warned about 110,000 civilians to leave Rafah, and its tanks moved in hours later. It was not a full-scale invasion, but some fear it is imminent.

Israel has threatened a major assault on the area to defeat the thousands of Hamas fighters it claims are holed up there.

Smoke rises after Israeli airstrike on Rafah - Israel relies heavily on US to supply its military

Smoke rises after Israeli airstrike on Rafah – Israel relies heavily on US to supply its military

Republicans condemned the administration’s decision to delay delivery of the bomb.

Senator Lindsey Graham rebuked the administration.

“That’s rude. It’s absurd. Give Israel what it needs,” Graham said, noting that it was not up to Washington to second-guess how Israel waged a war against Hamas militants bent on destroying Israel.

Sen. Deb Fischer, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on Biden to drop «his politically motivated scrutiny.»

«America’s support for Israel cannot be in doubt, especially now,» she said.

And Representatives Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a joint statement calling for the delivery of the bombs.

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“We are appalled that the administration has suspended the delivery of critical weapons to Israel. Withholding arms to Israel weakens Israel’s deterrence against Iran and its proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah,” they said.

American officials, meanwhile, worry that Israel is now in control on the Gaza side of the crossing to Egypt this is the main channel for humanitarian aid.

Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian crisis and famine-like conditions.

The seizure and closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only two main entry points in the south for food, medicine and other supplies, has raised fears that the crisis could worsen.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration had assured the crossing had reopened.

“Israel told us it was opened. It’s important to get those trucks in. It is important to get that aid to Gaza. So that’s what we want to see.»

«We know how dire the situation is in Gaza. We want to continue getting this humanitarian aid and we want a ceasefire. We want a ceasefire,» she noted.

Flares are set off over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

Flares are set off over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

Meanwhile, Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with CIA Director William Burns in Israel on Wednesday afternoon, an Israeli official told the New York Times.

Burns is in the Middle East trying to finalize a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas that would allow the hostages to be released.

The October 7 attack by Hamas killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 others, of whom 133 reportedly remain captive in Gaza, according to Israel.

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Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas has so far killed a total of 34,789 Palestinians, mostly civilians, the Gaza health ministry said.

White House spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the negotiations are at a «sensitive stage» and «there should be no reason why they cannot bridge the remaining gaps.»



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