Biden Threatens to Withhold Weapons from Israel over Gaza Operations

The Biden administration warns Israel it may withhold weapons if Israel launches a major operation in Gaza's Rafah region. A State Department report found "reasonable evidence" that Israel's use of US-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law.

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Muthana Al-Najjar
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Biden Threatens to Withhold Weapons from Israel over Gaza Operations

Biden Threatens to Withhold Weapons from Israel over Gaza Operations

The Biden administration has warned Israel that it may withhold weapons if Israel launches a major operation in Rafah, Hamas's last stronghold in Gaza. This warning comes after a State Department report found "reasonable evidence" that Israel's use of US-provided weapons in Gaza likely violated international humanitarian law.

Why this matters: The potential withholding of weapons by the US could have significant implications for the ongoing conflict in Gaza, and may influence Israel's military strategy in the region. This development also highlights the complexities of the US-Israel relationship and the challenges of balancing national interests with humanitarian concerns.

The report, delivered to Congress, stated that while the US was unable to determine specific US weapons used in individual strikes, it was "reasonable to assess" that US-made weapons were used by Israel's security forces in instances inconsistent with international humanitarian law or best practices for mitigating civilian harm.

The report's findings come after seven months of airstrikes, ground fighting, and aid restrictions that have claimed the lives of nearly 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children. The Biden administration has faced growing criticism over the soaring Palestinian death toll and the onset of famine caused by Israeli restrictions on food and aid into Gaza.

Democrats, led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, have pushed for the administration to restrict the provision of offensive weapons to Israel. Republicans, led by Rep. Michael McCaul, have accused the administration of wavering on support for Israel. "Now is the time to stand with our ally Israel and ensure they have the tools they need," McCaul stated.

In recent days, the administration paused a shipment of 3,500 bombs to Israel over concerns about Israel's threatened offensive on Rafah. The administration has also taken steps to assess Israel's conduct in Gaza, including its restrictions on aid deliveries. The report highlighted that "Israel's military has the experience, technology, and know-how to minimize harm to civilians, but the results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions as to whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases."

Thereport's findingshave sparked a debate between lawmakers and the administration over the US's support for Israel's war against Hamas. While the report does not legally require the US to halt arms transfers, it presents further questions about how President Biden will navigate his tense relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the closing months of a tough reelection campaign.