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Biden Halts Shipment of Offensive Weapons to Israel Amid Concerns Over Rafah Invasion

US has halted arms shipment to Israel amid fears of Gaza ground operation, citing concerns for humanitarian needs in Rafah.

In a move reflecting heightened tensions in the Gaza conflict, the United States has temporarily halted a planned arms shipment to Israel amid apprehensions that the country might proceed with a significant ground operation in Rafah, southern Gaza. 

According to a senior administration official, the shipment included 1,800 2,000lb (907kg) bombs and 1,700 500lb bombs. The official highlighted concerns regarding Israel’s response to the humanitarian needs of civilians in Rafah.

Israel, however, has yet to provide a comprehensive response to these concerns. 

The decision to pause the shipment comes amidst escalating violence in the region, with recent Israeli airstrikes targeting the Gaza Strip. 

These strikes followed Israeli forces’ seizure of the crucial Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt, intensifying the bombardment around Rafah, where casualties, including seven members of a single family, have been reported.

Rafah, serving as a vital entry point for aid and the sole exit for fleeing civilians, has been at the epicenter of the conflict between Israel and Hamas since October. 

The Israeli military’s recent evacuation orders for tens of thousands of civilians in eastern Rafah signal a looming military operation aimed at eliminating Hamas fighters and dismantling infrastructure.

Efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and secure the release of hostages and prisoners continue, with delegations from Israel and Hamas scheduled to resume talks in Cairo. 

The White House has expressed its stance against a major Israeli ground operation in Rafah, emphasising the necessity of addressing the humanitarian needs of the densely populated area.

The pause in the arms shipment, comprising bombs and JDAM kits, is part of a broader review initiated in April. 

While emphasising that the decision does not involve immediate transfers, the official stressed the significance of considering the potential impact of such weapons in urban settings.

The Gaza conflict, triggered by Hamas’ cross-border attack on southern Israel in October, has claimed thousands of lives, with both sides reporting casualties and hostages. 

Despite previous ceasefire agreements, tensions remain high, underscoring the complexity of achieving lasting peace in the region.

Chioma Kalu

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