Wed 29 May 2024 9:02 am - Jerusalem Time

Washington: “Rafah strike” does not violate Biden’s warnings to “Israel”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that Israel did not cross the borders that US President Joe Biden spoke of as a “red line” in its current military attack on the city of Rafah, especially the bombing of the tents of displaced persons in the “Al-Mawasi” area, which led to the killing of at least 46 people. Until Sunday's attack carried out by the Israeli occupation forces, it was not as severe as the Israeli bombing in the cities of Gaza City and Khan Yunis, where air strikes destroyed entire buildings, leveling them to the ground, and killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians daily.

Miller added, "We still do not believe that there is justification for a large ground operation in Rafah. We do not want to see the Israelis storming Rafah with large units over large areas of territory," he said, noting that the "weekend tragedy" very clearly shows the challenge represented by the raids. Military air strikes on densely populated areas of Gaza, including Rafah, because of the risk of civilian casualties, “which of course happened in a terrible way in this case, a terrible loss of life.”

He pointed out that Israel said it used 37-pound bombs in the attack with the aim of killing Hamas officials who it said were holed up in the city. “A 37-pound bomb is not a big bomb,” he said. “If this is indeed what they used, it shows an effort was made to be accurate and purposeful.”

In his response to the Jerusalem correspondent’s question: Is there really a red line? Day is the measure the US administration uses to determine the red line. Miller said: “The president’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke last week from the White House podium and made it clear that there is no mathematical formula you can apply, but it is something we will monitor closely and discuss with our Israeli counterparts.” .

For its part, the White House said on Tuesday that Israel did not violate President Biden's warnings about the conduct of its military campaign in Rafah after an air strike there over the weekend that killed at least 46 Palestinians and wounded hundreds of others, indicating that the United States will not impose... No consequences for Israel.

The air strike on a makeshift camp caused a fire in the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood in the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, creating one of the most horrific scenes of the war in the Palestinian Strip. Images of charred bodies and videos of parents burning alive while their children screamed for help have circulated, sparking renewed global outrage and growing calls for Israel to stop its attack in Rafah.

Several Biden officials, including Vice President Kamla Harris, expressed regret at the "heartbreaking" and "tragic" scenes and loss of life. But they said the mass casualty event did not cross the “red line” declared by Biden this month, when he said the United States would suspend deliveries of offensive weapons to Israel if it entered “population centers” in Rafah.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that Israel had not begun a "major ground operation" in the city.

Kirby and other officials pointed to statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that the civilian casualties were a "tragic mistake" and said they would wait until the Israeli military announced the results of an investigation into what went wrong. The Israeli military said that two Hamas activists were killed in the attack, including the commander of Hamas operations in the West Bank.

Some Democratic experts and lawmakers said the Israeli airstrike — along with reports of Israeli tanks entering central Rafah on Tuesday — clearly crossed Biden's red line, and they urged the president to respond accordingly.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said in a statement to the Washington Post: “The mounting civilian death toll and worsening humanitarian catastrophe make clear that the Biden administration must withhold additional offensive military assistance to the Netanyahu government until we know that all of the president’s requests, including those related to Rafah and the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid will be met and respected.”

He added: "Partnership must be a two-way street, not a blank check in one direction."

It is noteworthy that the administration of President Biden had spent several weeks during successive meetings last March and April with Israeli officials in an attempt to persuade Israel “to launch targeted raids and strikes in Rafah instead of launching a large-scale ground invasion.” American officials also expressed their “concern about "The consequences of conducting a major operation in Rafah when some 1.3 million Palestinians were sheltering there under Israeli orders, most of whom had moved several times during the nearly eight-month war and were living in deteriorating conditions."

As part of those discussions, American officials told their Israeli counterparts that they could not simply move hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Rafah to other parts of Gaza without establishing basic infrastructure, including tents, and providing necessities such as food and water. But since Israel began its military campaign in the city several weeks ago, about a million Palestinians have left Rafah without such aid, while both Israel and Egypt have sharply restricted aid coming into Gaza.

“As the Israeli invasion of Rafah approached, Biden and his senior aides were privately trying to avoid the images of mass death and destruction that have characterized much of the war and ignited anger in many parts of the world as well as in the United States. The president has faced increasing political challenges due to his strong support for Israel and the growing death toll. "of Palestinian civilians, and he now faces protesters at almost all of his public events," according to a Washington Post report.

Biden issued several sharp warnings to Israel as it prepared to go to Rafah to destroy what it said were the remaining Hamas brigades. During an interview in March, when asked whether the Rafah invasion would be a “red line” in his relationship with Netanyahu, Biden said it would be, but added: “I will never leave Israel.”

In an interview with CNN this month, Biden said he would not supply weapons — including the controversial 2,000-pound bombs — that Israel has used in its military operations in major cities in Gaza.

“I made it clear to Bibi and the [Israeli] war government that they would not have our support if they actually went into these population centers,” Biden said, using Netanyahu's nickname. “We are not taking away from Israel’s security – we are taking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas.”

However, critics of Biden's handling of Israel's war on Gaza, including some Democrats, said he provided inconsistent messaging about the potential US response to Israel's actions and did not impose meaningful consequences on Netanyahu.

Frank Lowenstein, a former State Department official who served at the State Department as a member of the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiating team, said: “Our response seemed to be to move the red line back so that it would not be crossed by anything less than the thousands of civilian deaths that we saw in Khan Yunis.” And Gaza City..

In turn, Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has worked on Middle East issues in several administrations, said that other countries are issuing increasing calls to take action against Israel, leaving the United States increasingly isolated.

Days before the deadly airstrike, the International Court of Justice, an arm of the United Nations, urged Israel to immediately halt its operations in Rafah — an order that is unenforceable but supported by many US allies.

“The red line has been crossed, and is being crossed again as we speak,” Riedel told the Washington Post. “Despite the horrific airstrike, which should have been a wake-up call to stop this attack, it is moving forward...the United States increasingly appears "It's as if she's out of touch with the rest of the international community, and that's not where Joe Biden wants to be."


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Washington: “Rafah strike” does not violate Biden’s warnings to “Israel”