Biden Pressures Israel to Reach Gaza Cease-Fire and Threatens to Withhold Arms

Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. defense secretary, told a Senate committee on Wednesday that the United States had been clear “from the very beginning that Israel shouldn’t launch a major attack into Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battle space, and again, as we have assessed the situation, we have paused one shipment of high payload munitions.”

Bombs weighing 2,000 pounds, some of the largest in the Israeli arsenal, were routinely used in the early weeks of the war, including in areas the military had designated safe for civilians, according to a New York Times investigation.

Earlier on Tuesday, after warning civilians to evacuate to nearby safe zones, Israeli tanks moved into Rafah, taking over the Gaza side of the city’s border crossing with Egypt. Hours after that action, which fell short of a full invasion, the White House confirmed the pause in bomb deliveries.

Alon Pinkas, a former diplomat for Israel, said that the U.S. decision was motivated by mounting American frustration with Mr. Netanyahu, as well as pressure from some congressional Democrats to more closely supervise Israel’s use of U.S. arms. And, he added, it was a signal to Israel that a full-scale invasion of Rafah could have further consequences.

“The logic behind this is a warning: If you don’t get your act together, there’s a lot more obstructions that could happen,” Mr. Pinkas said.

Matan Kahana, a lawmaker from the party of Benny Gantz, a political rival of Mr. Netanyahu who is also a member of the emergency wartime government, said in an interview on Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday that, if nothing else, the decision underscored Israel’s dependence on American munitions.

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