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alestinians are returning to their destroyed homes in Khan Younis after being displaced from Rafah Alamy Stock Photo

Israel ready to 'stand alone' after Biden warns US will stop arms supply upon Rafah invasion

Israel has said the US President’s threat to halt supplies was “very disappointing”.


ISRAEL IS PREPARED to “stand alone” in its offensive in Gaza, after the US President Joe Biden vowed to stop supplying some weapons if a threatened assault on Rafah goes ahead

“If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that said in a statement.

The Israeli premier was reiterating comments he has made several times in the past week in the face of mounting international criticism of his threats to invade the city of Rafah, where around 1.4 million Palestinians are currently sheltering having been displaced from other areas of Gaza.

Netanyahu did not mention the US threat, but stressed in comments delivered on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day, marking the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, that back then “we were few against many”.

“If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used… to deal with the cities,” Biden told CNN today.

“We’re not gonna supply the weapons and the artillery shells that have been used,” he added.

Analysts have said that they doubt the US move will have any immediate operational impact on the conflict.

An Israeli military spokesman stressed this evening that that the army had “enough weaponry” to complete its mission to search for the remaining Hamas fighters that Israel claims are currently in the city of Rafah.

The millions of Palestinians who have been displaced in Rafah were yesterday told to move northwards, towards the ruined remains of Gaza, as the Israeli military closed in on the perimeter of the city.

“The United States has helped us in an unprecedented manner since the start of the war,” he said in a televised address. “We have our own interests and we are sensitive to the US interests.”

Earlier Israel’s UN ambassador said Biden’s threat to stop certain arms supplies to Israel if it invades the crowded Gaza city of Rafah was “very disappointing”.

Israel shelled Rafah today as Biden offered his starkest warning yet over the conduct of its war against Hamas, vowing to cut off arms transfers if an offensive into the southern Gaza city goes ahead.

Israel has defied international objections by sending in tanks and conducting “targeted raids” in the border city, where millions of displaced Palestinians are sheltering and fear relocating over concerns they will be targeted on their evacuation.

AFP journalists reported heavy shelling in Rafah this morning, and the Israeli military later said it was also striking “Hamas positions” further north in the centre of the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, Israel forces seized Rafah’s border crossing into Egypt, which has served the main entry point for aid into besieged Gaza, and disrupted humanitarian aid deliveries, a move which was condemned by the White House.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs,” Biden said. “It’s just wrong.”

He insisted, however, that the United States would not be “not walking away from Israel’s security”.  The United States, along with Egypt and Cairo, has been heavily involved in talks currently under way in Cairo aimed at brokering a ceasefire in the seven-month war.

‘Extreme fear’

bloomington-united-states-07th-may-2024-bloomington-indiana-may-7-2024-pro-palestinian-protesters-march-in-response-to-israels-military-operations-in-rafah-in-gaza-in-downtown-bloomington Pro-Palestinian protesters in Bloomington, Indiana Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Israeli military said Wednesday it was reopening another major aid crossing into Gaza, Kerem Shalom, as well as the Erez crossing.

But the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said the Kerem Shalom crossing — which Israel shut after a rocket attack killed four soldiers on Sunday – remained closed.

Late Wednesday, the army said a soldier was lightly wounded when Kerem Shalom was again targeted by rockets.

The heavy shelling in Rafah overnight into Thursday followed a day of what the Israeli military said were “targeted raids on the Gazan side of Rafah crossing”, in the city’s east.

An army statement later on Wednesday said that Hamas naval commander Mohammed Ahmed Ali was killed in an air strike “in the past day”. Hamas did not immediately comment.

Civilian life in Rafah, meanwhile, “has completely ceased”, said displaced Gazan Marwan al-Masri, 35, noting “the streets are empty” in the western part of the city.

“We are living in Rafah in extreme fear and endless anxiety,” said Muhanad Ahmad Qishta, 29.

“Places the Israeli army claims to be safe are also being bombed,” he told AFP.

‘Catastrophic’ health situation

An emergency doctor working in Rafah and nearby Khan Yunis said that with humanitarian access compromised, the health situation was “catastrophic”.

“The smell of sewage is rife everywhere,” said the doctor, James Smith. “It’s been getting worse over the course of the last couple of days.”

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that hospitals in southern Gaza had only “three days of fuel left” because of the border closures.

“Without fuel all humanitarian operations will stop.”

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel in response vowed to crush Hamas and launched a military offensive that has killed at least 34,844 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 128 of them remain in Gaza, including 36 who officials say are dead.

Truce talks

Talks involving Qatari, US and Hamas delegations aimed at cementing a long-stalled ceasefire deal were ongoing Wednesday in Cairo, said Al-Qahera News, which is linked to Egyptian intelligence.

It noted that there were “points of contention” during the discussions, but also reported some “convergence” without elaborating.

A senior Hamas official said the latest round of negotiations would be “decisive”.

Hamas “insists on the rightful demands of its people”, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly about the negotiations.

In Jerusalem, CIA director Bill Burns met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the “possibility of Israel pausing the operation in Rafah in exchange for hostage releases”, an Israeli official said, also on condition of anonymity.

The Hamas official had previously warned the Cairo talks would be Israel’s “last chance” to free the hostages still in militants’ hands.

Mediator Qatar also appealed “for urgent international action to prevent Rafah from being invaded and a crime of genocide being committed”.

Palestinian analyst Mkhaimar Abusada said Israel’s seizure of the Rafah crossing could be an attempt to create new facts on the ground, or a bid to “sabotage the truce talks”.

Israel’s seizure of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing came after Hamas said it had accepted a truce proposal – one Israel said was “far” from what its own negotiators had previously agreed to.

Netanyahu has described the Rafah operation as “a very important step” in denying Hamas “a passage that was essential for establishing its reign of terror”.