Biden threatens to halt transfer of offensive weapons to Israel if IDF enters Rafah

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US President Joe Biden meets with campaign volunteers at the Dr. John Bryant Community Center, May 8, 2024, in Racine, Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden meets with campaign volunteers at the Dr. John Bryant Community Center, May 8, 2024, in Racine, Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

US President Joe Biden says his administration will not support Israel or provide it with offensive weapons if it launches an offensive against Hamas in populated parts of Rafah.

“I’ve made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet: They’re not going to get our support if they go [into] these population centers,” Biden tells CNN in an interview.

The interview marks Biden’s toughest public comments yet about the potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, amid concerns in Washington that Israel is not planning to heed its warnings against an offensive that the administration says fails to take into account the over one million Palestinians sheltering in Gaza’s southernmost city.

The remarks also appear to be a threat by Biden to make permanent the hold his administration placed last week on a transfer of heavy bombs, citing concerns that they could be used by Israel in densely populated areas of Rafah like they have in other parts of Gaza.

“I made it clear that if they go into – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — [then] 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 says, arguing that the operation launched by the IDF earlier this week was limited to the Rafah border crossing, even though “it’s causing problems with Egypt… which I’ve worked very hard to make sure we have a relationship and help.”

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which [Israel] goes after population centers,” Biden says, referencing the 2,000-pound bombs that his administration held up last week.

Biden clarifies that the US will continue supplying Israel with Iron Dome missile interceptors and other defensive weapons to ensure that Jerusalem can respond to attacks from adversaries across the region, such as last month’s massive missile and drone barrage from Iran.

“But it’s just wrong. We’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells,” Biden asserts.

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