US to go ahead with $1bn Israel support despite Rafah concerns

Decision follows pause of weapons delivery over concerns Israel would use bombs in assault on Gaza city

US President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday. Bloomberg
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President Joe Biden's administration on Tuesday notified the US Congress about a new arms package it plans to deliver to Israel, a Congressional source confirmed to The National.

The move comes days after the Pentagon confirmed the pause of a weapons delivery to Israel, and after Mr Biden set a "red line" on US weapons deliveries to Israel over any potential invasion of Rafah in Gaza.

The $1 billion package will consist of tank ammunition, tactical vehicles and mortar rounds, a Republican aide confirmed to The National.

The notification came just hours before the House of Representatives is due to vote Wednesday on the Republican-led Israel Security Assistance Support Act, a direct response to Mr Biden's "red line" on Rafah which would bar the administration from withholding military aid to Israel passed by Congress and require its “prompt delivery”.

Mr Biden announced Tuesday in a Statement of Policy that he would veto the legislation should it pass Congress.

News of the Biden administration's weapons package notification to Congress was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The move also follows the release of a government report saying Israel may have violated international law with US weapons in its war in Gaza.

Tensions have risen in Washington's relationship with Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed plans to expand military operations on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million civilians are sheltering.

Palestinians fled to Rafah after Israel ordered them to move southwards during its war on Hamas militants after the October 7 attack that Israeli officials say killed up to 1,200 people.

Israel's military operations in Gaza have killed more than 35,100 people, health officials in the enclave say.

Mr Biden publicly and privately drew a "red line" on supporting Israel if it launches a full invasion of Rafah without taking steps to protect civilians and increase humanitarian aid access.

Reports say that more than 100,000 people have fled for safety and the Israeli military has moved into parts of the city, killing more than a dozen people – which the White House asserts does not cross Mr Biden's "red line".

A US shipment of 2,000-pound bombs and 500-pound bombs was halted because of concerns they would be used in an Israeli assault of Rafah.

The US State Department must submit such weapons packages to Congress for a review process by the Senate foreign relations and House foreign affairs committees.

But the Biden administration bypassed Congressional approval to transfer weapons to Israel last year, to the frustration of some members of his Democratic Party.

Updated: May 15, 2024, 2:51 AM