May 21, 2024

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The war between Israel and Hamas and the ceasefire talks in Gaza: live updates

The war between Israel and Hamas and the ceasefire talks in Gaza: live updates

The Biden administration on Wednesday highlighted tensions in US-Israeli relations, with the Defense Secretary publicly admitting that President Biden’s decision to postpone the delivery of heavy bombs was linked to Israel’s plans to launch a major attack on the city of Rafah. In the Gaza Strip.

Minister Lloyd J. Austin III told a Senate committee that the United States had been clear “from the beginning that Israel should not launch a major attack on Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians on that battlefield, and again, as we assessed the situation, we temporarily halted one shipment of munitions.” High load capacity.

While the president and other administration officials have publicly criticized Israel’s conduct of the war for months, it has often been in muted terms, saving the harshest assessment for private conversations. Mr. Austin’s comments on Wednesday were the bluntest public statement yet that the dispute carries consequences and a sign of the kind of leverage the United States can use to influence Israel’s behavior in the war in Gaza.

The United States and other allies have warned that any comprehensive attack on Rafah could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of displaced people in Gaza who live in tents and temporary housing there. Israeli tanks and forces moved in on Monday to take control of the border crossing with Egypt.

As the scale and timing of their plans remain unknown, Israeli officials have downplayed any conflict with the United States over weapons and the war in Gaza, while also continuing to negotiate a potential ceasefire that could lead to the return of detained Israeli hostages. During the Hamas-led attack in October.

Palestinian children receive food in a charity kitchen in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Wednesday.credit…Hatem Khaled/Reuters

Experts in US-Israeli relations say that the halt in the delivery of munitions, which the White House confirmed on Tuesday, showed that the alliance has reached a major split, with the possibility of further divisions amidst this. American popular support declined for the Israeli war effort.

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“It’s pent-up frustration on Biden’s part that he eventually collapsed,” Chuck Freilich, Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, said on Wednesday. He added: “The administration was walking a tightrope between its very strong support for Israel and internal pressures.”

This week in particular, two opposing elements in President Biden’s approach to military support for Israel are converging and vying for global attention.

As he approved $827 million in new US aid including weapons and equipment – ​​along with a firm speech against anti-Semitism at a Holocaust memorial ceremony – President Biden made clear he remains deeply committed to Israel.

At the same time, he noted that there were limits to US assistance and patience, as he suspended the delivery of the heaviest munitions – 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs – over fears they would be used in a possible large-scale attack. In the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the hearing room as Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III testified before a Senate committee in Washington on Wednesday.credit…Kevin Deitch/Getty Images

In their public comments, Israeli officials mostly touted long-term American support and ignored the pause in arms deliveries.

Speaking at a conference hosted by a local newspaper on Tuesday night, the military’s chief spokesman, Admiral Daniel Hagari, described coordination between Israel and the United States as having reached an “unprecedented scale,” while insisting that any disagreements were being dealt with “behind the scenes.” door.”

He brushed aside questions about the expression of American frustrations and the potential risks of future arms shipments, and stressed the importance of day-to-day coordination and “operational assistance.”

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Military analysts say Israel has a large arsenal to draw on and many options on how to proceed in Gaza that will not necessarily include bombs, which Washington has postponed.

Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli diplomat, said the US decision was prompted by growing American frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as pressure from some Democrats in Congress to more closely oversee Israel’s use of US weapons. He added that it was an attempt to warn Israel of the possibility of more consequences in the near future.

“The logic behind this is a warning: If you don’t get things right, there are a lot of things that can happen,” Mr. Pinkas said.

Aaron Puckerman Contributed to reports.