• 24 May, 2024

Pentagon Chief Confirms US Pause on Weapons Shipment to Israel

Pentagon Chief Confirms US Pause on Weapons Shipment to Israel

Lloyd Austin asserts that the US "has not made a final determination" on arms transfer amidst concerns over Israel's Rafah offensive.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has acknowledged the halting of a weapons shipment to Israel amid mounting concerns over the ongoing offensive in Rafah. Speaking before a US congressional subcommittee, Austin revealed that the Biden administration had paused "one shipment of high payload munitions" due to apprehensions regarding Israel's military actions in southern Gaza.

Austin emphasized the importance of safeguarding civilians in conflict zones, asserting that Israel should refrain from launching major attacks into Rafah without ensuring the protection of civilians. He clarified that a final decision regarding the weapons transfer has yet to be made, highlighting that this particular shipment is distinct from a supplemental aid package for Israel passed in late April.

"Our unwavering commitment remains: we stand firmly in support of Israel's right to self-defense," stated Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, reacting to the temporary halt in a weapons shipment, deeming the US decision "deeply disappointing."

Erdan emphasized the inconsistency, stating, "[US President Joe Biden] cannot claim partnership in the mission to dismantle Hamas while stalling the means intended for that purpose."

Journalist Kimberly Halkett, reporting from the White House, detailed the contents of the shipment paused by the US, consisting of 1,800 bombs weighing approximately 900kg (2,000lbs) each and another 1,700 bombs weighing 226kg (500lbs) each.

Concerns, both from student protesters nationwide and within the president's own party, preceded this delay. Halkett underscored the significance, remarking, "There have been mounting concerns regarding the use of these weapons."

US Senator Bernie Sanders commended the pause but urged further action, stating, "This must mark just the beginning." He emphasized leveraging US influence to push for an immediate ceasefire, halting attacks on Rafah, and delivering urgent humanitarian aid to those in dire need. Sanders highlighted the significant military aid the US has historically provided to Israel.

The Biden administration's unwavering support for Israel has come under intense scrutiny amidst the Gaza conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of over 34,000 Palestinians and exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the region. Despite this criticism, Washington has predominantly maintained its military and diplomatic backing for Israel as the conflict persists.

Recently, Israel escalated its bombardment of Rafah, resulting in the deaths of numerous individuals after ordering around 100,000 residents to evacuate the city's eastern areas. Additionally, Israeli troops conducted operations at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, a crucial entry point for humanitarian aid.

Despite expressing concerns for the safety of the more than 1.5 million Palestinians seeking refuge in Rafah, the US Department of State sought to downplay Israel's recent military actions. According to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller, the operation targeted solely the Rafah gate and did not involve civilian areas under evacuation orders.

Regarding the paused US weapons shipment to Israel, Miller emphasized Washington's ongoing commitment to Israel's security, despite its objections to the Rafah operation. He stated that while one shipment of near-term assistance had been paused, others were under review, reaffirming the long-term support for Israel's security.

However, pressure is mounting on President Biden domestically, with human rights advocates urging the US to take a stronger stance to end the conflict in Gaza. Protests, including those on college campuses, reflect growing discontent with Biden's approach.

A recent poll by Data for Progress, in collaboration with news website Zeteo, highlighted a growing divide between Biden and his Democratic Party base. The poll indicated that a significant portion of Democrats believed Israel's actions constituted "genocide" in Gaza, with a majority of Americans, particularly Democrats, supporting a permanent ceasefire.

Hasan Pyarali, chairman of the Muslim Caucus for College Democrats of America, noted that many young voters are signaling dissatisfaction with Biden's policies, potentially impacting his reelection campaign.