US confirms it’s holding up transfer of bombs, fearing Israel will use them in Rafah

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

Smoke billows following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 7, 2024. (AFP)
Smoke billows following Israeli strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 7, 2024. (AFP)

The Biden administration confirms reports that it held up a shipment last week of 2,000 and 500-pound bombs that it fears Israel might use in a major ground operation in Rafah.

This is the first time since October 7 that the US has held up a weapons shipment earmarked for Israel.

Washington adamantly opposes a major offensive in the southern city of Gaza, convinced that there is no way for Israel to conduct one in a manner that would ensure the safety of the over million Palestinians sheltering there.

A senior Biden administration official tells The Times of Israel that the US held a pair of virtual meetings with top Israeli officials in recent months to express their concerns regarding a potential Rafah operation and to present alternatives for how Israel could target Hamas in the city instead of a full-scale invasion.

Those talks will continue, but the White House determined that they were insufficient in getting its concerns across, the senior official says.

“As Israeli leaders seemed to approach a decision point last month on such an operation, we began to carefully review proposed transfers of particular weapons to Israel that might be used in Rafah,” the official says.

The review resulted in the pausing last week of a shipment of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, the official says, noting that the White House was particularly concerned that Israel would use the 2,000-pound bombs in densely populated Rafah, as it has employed in other parts of Gaza.

The official clarifies that no final determination has been made regarding the particular shipment paused last week.

The senior official also appears to confirm a report that the US delayed a transfer of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) to Israel, but clarifies this holdup occurred much earlier than the shipment of bombs delayed last week.

“For certain other cases at the State Department, including JDAM kits, we are continuing the review. None of these cases involve imminent transfers. They are about future transfers,” the official says.

The senior official emphasizes that the weapons shipments under review are drawn from previously appropriated funds from years ago, and are not part of the aid that Congress approved for Israel last month.

“We are committed to ensuring Israel gets every dollar appropriated in the supplemental,” the senior administration official stresses, noting that the US just approved another $827 million worth of weapons and equipment for Israel.

Most Popular