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US reveals it paused shipment of bombs for Israel over Rafah concerns

The US last week paused a bomb shipment for Israel over concerns it was going ahead with a major ground operation in Rafah, southern Gaza, a senior administration official says.

The shipment consisted of 1,800 2,000lb (907kg) bombs and 1,700 500lb bombs, the official told CBS News, the BBC’s media partner in the US.

Israel has not “fully addressed” US concerns over humanitarian needs of civilians in Rafah, the official says.

Israel made no immediate comment.

Overnight, there were further Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, hours after Israeli forces backed by tanks took control of the key Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt.

The Israeli bombardment has been particularly intense around Rafah. Local medics say seven members of one family were killed in one overnight strike.

Rafah has been a key entry point for aid and the only exit for people able to flee since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas last October.

On Monday, the Israeli military ordered tens of thousands of civilians to begin evacuating nearby eastern parts of Rafah city, ahead of what it called a “limited” operation to eliminate Hamas fighters and dismantle infrastructure.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to reach a ceasefire, alongside the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. In Cairo, delegations from Israel and Hamas are due to resume negotiations through mediators.

“The US position has been that Israel should not launch a major ground operation in Rafah, where more than a million people are sheltering with nowhere else to go,” the White House administration official said.

“We have been engaging in a dialogue with Israel in our Strategic Consultative Group format on how they will meet the humanitarian needs of civilians in Rafah, and how to operate differently against Hamas there than they have elsewhere in Gaza.

“Those discussions are ongoing and have not fully addressed our concerns. As Israeli leaders seemed to approach a decision point on such an operation, we began to carefully review proposed transfers of particular weapons to Israel that might be used in Rafah. This began in April.

EPA Smoke rises in the distance while people stand in front of a tent community in Rafah on 7 MayEPA
Israel has ordered civilians to evacuate Rafah ahead of its ‘limited’ military operation (photo taken 7 May in Rafah)

“As a result of that review, we have paused one shipment of weapons last week. It consists of 1,800 2,000lb bombs and 1,700 500lb bombs. We are especially focused on the end-use of the 2,000-lb bombs and the impact they could have in dense urban settings as we have seen in other parts of Gaza. We have not made a final determination on how to proceed with this shipment.”

The unnamed official added that “for certain other cases at the State Department, including JDAM [Joint Direct Attack Munition] kits, we are continuing the review. None of these cases involve imminent transfers – they are about future transfers”.

The official stressed that the shipments were unrelated to last month’s landmark $17bn military aid package, but had been drawn from “previously appropriated funds.”

Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to the group’s cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 others were taken hostage.

More than 34,780 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

A deal agreed in November saw Hamas release 105 hostages in return for a week-long ceasefire and some 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Israel says 128 hostages are unaccounted for, 34 of whom are presumed dead.

bbc

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