Senior Democrat backs conditioning Israel aid if Rafah op launched sans provisions to protect civilians

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

A senior Democratic lawmaker, who is a close ally to US President Joe Biden and a longtime Israel backer, says he would support conditioning aid to Jerusalem for the first time if the IDF moves forward with a massive invasion of Rafah without ensuring that the nearly 1.5 million civilians sheltering there are protected.

“I think we’re at the point where President Biden has said and I have said… [that] if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to order the IDF into Rafah at scale, [if] they were to drop 1,000-pound bombs and send in a battalion to go after Hamas and make no provision for civilians or for humanitarian aid, that I would vote to condition aid to Israel,” Sen. Chris Coons tells CNN.

Israel has insisted that it will only move forward with the Rafah operation once it has cleared civilians from the southern Gaza city, but the US has expressed increased skepticism that the IDF will be able to pull off such a major evacuation, pointing to the already dire humanitarian situation in the enclave.

“I’ve never been here before. I’ve been a strong supporter of Israel the whole time,” he notes.

Coons points out that Congress just appropriated another $3.3 billion in support for Israel and wants to maintain a close relationship with the Jewish state.

“But the tactics by which the current prime minister is making these decisions don’t reflect the best values of Israel or of the United States,” he adds, clarifying that he would be able to support more targeted operations against Hamas.

“I think we can move forward if we see real seriousness about addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza as well as the security crisis that Israel continues to face,” Coons says, highlighting northern Gaza as a particularly hard-struck area, which is largely under the IDF’s control.

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