Biden says U.S. will not transfer offensive weapons if Israel invades Rafah

President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that the U.S. would not supply Israel with certain weapons and artillery shells if the country’s military invades Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where more than 1 million people are sheltering.

If the Israeli military launches a ground offensive in Rafah, his administration will not supply “the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities,” Biden said during an interview on CNN.

“We’re not going to supply the weapons and the artillery shells used,” Biden said.

The move would mark a shift in U.S. policy toward the war, though Biden said that the U.S. would “continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks.”

Biden also said that the 2,000-pound bombs — the type his administration halted in a planned shipment last week — have been used by Israel to kill Palestinian civilians.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Biden said when asked about the paused shipment of U.S. weapons to Israel.

NBC News previously reported that the White House halted a shipment of offensive weapons last week that included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, according to a senior administration official.

An Israeli official told NBC News there was deep frustration in the Israeli government over the decision as Israel’s military prepares to launch an expected ground offensive in Rafah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the military would enter the city “with or without” a deal with Hamas.

Israel is demanding that Rafah be walled off from a cease-fire deal, according to four current and one former U.S. official familiar with the discussions.

Netanyahu’s government is refusing to agree to a deal unless they can move forward with a military operations in Rafah, even during a cease-fire, the officials said.

An Israeli official denied the account, citing recent remarks from Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: “Yesterday, I directed the IDF to enter the Rafah area, take the crossing, and carry out its missions.”

“This operation will continue until we eliminate Hamas in the Rafah area and the entire Gaza strip, or until the first hostage returns,” Gallant had continued.

Biden has reiterated his opposition to the Rafah offensive in calls with Netanyahu, according to White House readouts of the leaders’ conversations.

The president also touched on his administration’s work with Arab states regarding the Israel-Hamas war, saying during the CNN interview that “five leaders in the Arab community were prepared to help rebuild Gaza, prepared to help transition to a two-state solution.”

When asked for clarity on whether the leaders would help govern the area, Biden said they would work to “maintain the security and peace while they’re working out a Palestinian Authority that’s real and not corrupt.”

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