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8 May, 2024 19:53

Pentagon confirms halt in arms supply to Israel

A delivery has been withdrawn over concerns about the Rafah operation, according to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Pentagon confirms halt in arms supply to Israel

The US paused a shipment of weapons to Israel last week over concerns of West Jerusalem’s looming ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said, as cited by the Financial Times.

Washington has not decided the final fate of the arms but is concerned about their possible use in the Palestinian city, the Pentagon chief reportedly told a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

“We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself,” Austin stated, adding “But that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah.” 

He noted that there was not a final determination on what the fate of the shipment would be.

The Pentagon chief’s remarks come as Israeli tanks and troops entered the eastern districts of Rafah on Monday night, seizing the main border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This was preceded by airstrikes on the densely populated city.

“We’ve been very clear about the steps that we’d like to see Israel take to account for, to take care of those civilians before major combat takes place,” Austin said. “We certainly would like to see no major combat take place in Rafah but our focus is on making sure we protect the civilians.”

The Qatari news site Al Araby reported on Tuesday, citing sources, that Washington had given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “several days” to achieve a symbolic victory in the Palestinian city.

The pause in arms supplies would mark the first known instance of the US withholding a weapons delivery to the Jewish state since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and West Jerusalem’s retaliatory offensive, FT wrote. The administration of President Joe Biden has reportedly approved more than 100 arms deliveries to Israel since October 7.

The outlet also cited an unnamed senior US official claiming that the paused delivery included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs.

None of the delays were connected to the supplemental funding of $14.1 billion for Israel passed last month, according to the senior official.

“We are committed to ensuring Israel gets every dollar appropriated in the supplemental,” he reportedly said, adding that Washington had just approved $827 million in weapons and equipment for Israel.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, told Israel’s Channel 12 News that he did not believe the US would stop supplying arms to Israel but called the decision “very disappointing.”

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