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

President Joe Biden said Wednesday the U.S. would not supply Israel with certain weapons and artillery shells if its 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, the administration will not supply “the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities,” Biden said in 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 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 Israel has used the 2,000-pound bombs — the type his administration halted in a planned shipment last week — 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,” he said when he was asked about the paused shipment of U.S. weapons to Israel.

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NBC News has 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.

The country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, said the U.S. pause was “a very disappointing decision, even frustrating.” He suggested in an interview with Israeli Channel 12 TV news that the move stemmed from domestic political pressure on Biden.

Israel’s right-wing national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, offered a more hardline reaction. “Hamas ❤️ Biden,” he said in a post on X that drew swift criticism from Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, and others.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the country’s military would enter the city “with or without” a deal with Hamas.

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

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

An Israeli official denied that characterization, citing recent remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who said, “This operation will continue until we eliminate Hamas in the Rafah area and the entire Gaza Strip or until the first hostage returns.”

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

Biden also touched on his administration’s work with Arab states regarding the Israel-Hamas war, saying in 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.”

Asked for clarity about 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.”

WASHINGTON, May 9 (Reuters) – Billions of dollars worth of U.S. weaponry remains in the pipeline for Israel, despite the delay of one shipment of bombs and a review of others by President Joe Biden’s administration, concerned their use in an assault could wreak more devastation on Palestinian civilians.

A senior U.S. official said this week that the administration had reviewed the delivery of weapons that Israel might use for a major invasion of Rafah, a southern Gaza city where over 1 million civilians have sought refuge, and as a result paused a shipment of bombs to Israel.

Washington has long urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government not to invade Rafah without safeguards for civilians, seven months into a war that has devastated Gaza.

Congressional aides estimated the delayed bomb shipment’s value as “tens of millions” of U.S. dollars.

A wide range of other military equipment is due to go to Israel, including joint direct attack munitions (JDAMS), which convert dumb bombs into precision weapons; and tank rounds, mortars and armored tactical vehicles, Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.

Risch said those munitions were not moving through the approval process as quickly as they should be, noting some had been in the works since December, while assistance for Israel more typically sails through the review process within weeks.

Biden administration officials have said they are reviewing additional arms sales, and Biden warned Israel in a CNN interview on Wednesday that the U.S. would stop supplying weapons if Israeli forces make a major invasion of Rafah.

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Israel’s assault on Gaza was triggered by an Oct. 7 attack by Islamist Hamas militants, which by its tallies killed 1,200. The subsequent Israeli bombardment has killed some 35,000 Palestinians, according to local health authorities, and displaced the majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

Separately, Representative Gregory Meeks, top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, has put a hold on an $18 billion arms transfer of package for Israel that would include dozens of Boeing Co. F-15 aircraft while he awaits more information about how Israel would use them.

Biden’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas has emerged as a political liability for the president, particularly among young Democrats, as he runs for re-election this year. It fueled a wave of “uncommitted” protest votes in primaries and has driven pro-Palestinian protests at U.S. universities.

None of those weapons agreements are part of a spending package Biden signed last month that included about $26 billion to support Israel and provide humanitarian aid.

Risch and Meeks are two of the four U.S. lawmakers – the chair and ranking member of Senate Foreign Relations and chair and ranking member on House Foreign Affairs – who review major foreign weapons deals.

‘FINGERNAILS’

Netanyahu issued a video statement on Thursday saying Israelis “would fight with their fingernails” in an apparent rebuff of Biden.

Republicans accused Biden of backing down on his commitments to Israel. “If the Commander-in-Chief can’t muster the political courage to stand up to radicals on his left flank and stand up for an ally at war, the consequences will be grave,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a Senate speech.

Ten other Senate Republicans held a press conference to announce a non-binding resolution condemning “any action by the Biden Administration to withhold or restrict weapons for Israel.”

White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Israel was still getting the weapons it needs to defend itself. “He’s (Biden’s) going to continue to provide Israel with the capabilities that it needs, all of them,” Kirby said.

Some Congressional Democrats welcomed Biden’s action.

Senator Chris Murphy, the Democratic chair of the Foreign Relations Mideast subcommittee, cited concern about Rafah.

“I do not think it is our strategic or moral interest to help Israel conduct a campaign in Rafah that is likely to kill thousands of innocent civilians and not likely impact Hamas’ long-term strength in a meaningful way,” he told Reuters.