U.S. Delaying Arms Shipments to Israel Pending Rafah Invasion

The US has confirmed that they delayed last week an arms shipment to Israel out of concern that the weapons would be used in an Israeli invasion of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. The US further added that an Israeli invasion of Rafah could further alter future US shipments of arms to Israel.

Delayed Shipments

Last week, the US delayed an arms shipment of 3,500 bombs, including 1,800 2,000lb bombs, and 1,700 500lb explosives, to Israel. The US today confirmed that this delay was because of Israel’s impending invasion of Rafah, which the US has strongly opposed from the get-go. The US Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, confirmed the delay and further added that other shipments would be under scrutiny.

“We are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah. We’ve been very clear from the very beginning that that Israel shouldn’t launch a major attack and Rafah without accounting for and protecting those civilians that are hitting that battlespace. And, again as we have assessed the situation, we paused one shipment of high payload munitions” -US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III official portrait session, July 6, 2023. (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

Future arms shipments under scrutiny include Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) kits, which allow precision targeting with bombs. 2,000lb bombs are also under significant scrutiny. Due to the high power of the munition, the effect they can have on urban settings, particularly on civilians in the area, is being brought into question as the US debates whether to continue with such shipments.

The delays have been met with controversy in the US government. US President Joe Biden has been coming under increased pressure to do something to slow, or halt, Israel’s military operations as casualties continue to mount in Gaza, which are steadily approaching 35,000 people killed.

On the other hand, in certain groups within the government support for Israel’s operations are still high, and the delays are creating fears that Israel’s future security could be put at risk if the US halts arms shipments.

Despite the delayed shipments, Secretary Austin stated that the US’ support for Israel remains ironclad.

Repeat Condemnations

While the US has largely supported Israel’s military operations, they have continually condemned the prospect of an Israeli military operation in Rafah, claiming that any operation there would be highly costly on civilian lives, risk the collapse of humanitarian efforts in Gaza, and further isolate Israel on the world stage, more than they already have been.

Since Monday, Israel has been launching an extensive bombing campaign of eastern Rafah, in areas that they had ordered civilians to evacuate from. While they have not launched a full on ground invasion, they did deploy a force in order to seize the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, giving Israel full control over every entry and exit point from Gaza. The bombing campaign is likely to clear the way for a ground invasion that is soon to follow.

Though the US has condemned an invasion of Rafah, they described the seizure of the Rafah crossing as a “legitimate goal” in order to deny Hamas its use. As a result of the Israeli seizure of the crossing, it has been temporarily closed.

Rafah, which lies in the very south of Gaza, was previously established earlier in the war by Israel to be a safe zone. As such, it has become host to approximately 1.4 million people; over half of Gaza’s population.

Because of the crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Rafah has been a key basing ground for humanitarian operations in Gaza.  It is further host to a number of UNRWA camps. The UNRWA, as well as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, have stated an Israeli operation in Rafah would be the “nail in the coffin” for humanitarian operations in Gaza, which were already severely harmed. With the Israeli seizure of the Rafah crossing closing the crossing, the UN has demanded that Israel reopen the crossing as soon as possible.

Israel has stated that the operation is necessary in order to destroy Hamas’ last remaining battalions. Netanyahu has claimed there are approximately four battalions left in Gaza, numbering thousands of militants. Furthermore, Israel believes many of the remaining approximately 130 hostages (of which, over 30 are believed to have died) are being held within Rafah.

The operation has been controversial due to the extremely high civilian presence within Gaza, as well as the effect an operation is sure to have upon humanitarian operations.  The US, among others, have claimed that the operation would be too costly in civilian lives.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pictured with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 30th, 2023 (Photo by DEBBIE HILL/POOL/AFP)

It is unclear how effective evacuations will be in getting civilians out of harms way. Previously, in other evacuations, some civilians chose not to evacuate due to attacks and bombings ongoing on supposed evacuation routes, as well as within ‘safe zones’.

Civilians have been ordered to evacuate to al-Mawasi, further north and towards the coast within Gaza. The area has been established as a present safe zone, however has previously been subject to operations carried out by Israel, leading many to doubt the validity of al-Mawasi being a safe zone.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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