US halts bomb shipment to Israel amid concern over Rafah invasion

In halting a shipment of thousands of bombs, President Joe Biden has sent his most serious signal yet both to Israel and his domestic critics, although it remains doubtful he can fundamentally alter the course of the war in Gaza.

Biden, a self-described Zionist, had long resisted stopping any of the $3 billion in weapons the United States sends each year to Israel – and pushed Congress for an increase in the wake of the October 7 attack by Hamas that triggered the major Israeli retaliation.

But US officials say privately that his hand was forced after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear he would go ahead with an assault on Rafah, defying Biden's public appeals to spare the southern Gaza city for the sake of the more than one million Palestinians who have taken refuge there.

Officials said the United States paused delivery last week of 1,800 2,000-pound (907 kilogram) bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, with further delays under consideration.

The move comes as Biden faces a growing backlash from the left of his base months ahead of elections, with pro-Palestinian protests sweeping major universities.

Two top Republican lawmakers on foreign affairs, Representatives Mike McCaul and Mike Rogers, in turn called the decision "appalling" and a "short-sighted, strategic error" that weakens Israel as it negotiates to release hostages from Hamas.


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