President Biden threatens to halt arms to Israel over Rafah invasion

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President Biden threatens to halt arms to Israel over Rafah invasion

Right-wing lawmakers and ministers reacted harshly to Biden's ultimatum, with National Security Minister Ben-Gvir accusing the president of 'loving Hamas'

President Joe Biden, March 18, 2024, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
President Joe Biden, March 18, 2024, in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

President Joe Biden threatened with halting arms shipments to Israel if the  IDF invades Rafah in southern Gaza. 

Washington paused a delivery of 1,000lb and 2,000lb heavy bombs to Israel last week, fearing they would be used in a military operation in the city of Rafah in Gaza.

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

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

Biden added that Washington’s isn’t “walking away from Israel’s security. We’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas. We’re going to continue to make sure 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, it’s just wrong. We’re not going to – we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells.”

His warning was met with fury among right-wing lawmakers in Israel. “Biden loves Hamas,” tweeted National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

His comment was immediately condemned by Opposition Leader Yair Lapid who called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to fire Ben-Gvir.

“If Netanyahu does not fire Ben Gvir today, he is endangering every soldier in the IDF and every citizen in the State of Israel,” Lapid said.

But Ben-Gvir wasn’t the only lawmaker to lash out at Biden. Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich said Israel “must continue this war until victory, despite — and to a certain extent precisely because of — the opposition of the Biden administration and the stopping of arms shipments. We simply have no other choice that does not endanger our existence and security.”

Israel has to continue the war in Gaza “until the destruction of Hamas and the return of the hostages. This involves fully conquering Rafah here and now,” he added.

Likud lawmaker Dan Illouz claimed that Biden’s stance on Rafah and conditional weapons sales “not only jeopardises Israel but the entire free world.

“Since October 7, Israel has valiantly led the global fight for freedom. His policy risks undermining our vital battle against the horrific terrorist organisation Hamas, thereby threatening global security and emboldening terrorism worldwide,” he added.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, told Channel 12 that Washington’s decision to pause shipment of heavy bombs last week was “a very disappointing decision, even frustrating”

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