Biden says he will stop sending bombs and artillery shells to Israel if they launch a major invasion of Rafah

Racine, Wisconsin.-

US President Joe Biden said for the first time on Wednesday that he would halt shipments of US weapons to Israel – which he acknowledged have been used to kill civilians in Gaza – if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders a major invasion of the city of Rafah. .

“Civilians have died in Gaza as a result of those bombs and other ways that they attack population centers,” Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett in an exclusive interview on “Erin Burnett OutFront,” referring to the 2,000-pound bombs that Biden stopped. shipments from last week.

“I made it clear that if they go to Rafah – they haven’t gone to Rafah yet – if they go to Rafah, I will not provide them with the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities. that address that problem,” Biden said.

The president’s announcement that he was willing to condition American weaponry on Israel’s actions represents a turning point in the seven-month conflict between Israel and Hamas. And his admission that American bombs had been used to kill civilians in Gaza was a clear acknowledgment of America’s role in the war.

The president has been under extraordinary pressure, including from members of his own party, to limit arms shipments amid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Until now, the president had resisted those calls and strongly supported Israel’s efforts to pursue Hamas. However, the imminent invasion of Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where more than a million Palestinian civilians have taken refuge, appears to have changed the president’s calculations.

Biden said that while the United States would continue to provide defensive weapons to Israel, including its Iron Dome air defense system, other shipments would end if a major ground invasion of Rafah began.

“We will continue to ensure that Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and its ability to respond to attacks that have recently emerged from the Middle East,” he said. “But it’s wrong. “We are not going to supply weapons or artillery shells.”

The United States has already detained a shipment of “high payload munitions” due to possible Israeli operations in Rafah without a plan for civilians there, according to the Pentagon, although it said no final decision had been made on that shipment. The administration has said it is reviewing the possible sale or transfer of other munitions.

Israeli officials privately expressed to US officials their “deep frustration” over the pause in shipments, as well as briefings with US media about the decision, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Biden’s public linking U.S. arms shipments to Israel’s conduct could widen a rift between him and Netanyahu, with whom he spoke by phone on Monday. That conversation came as Israel ordered the evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians from Rafah and launched attacks near the city’s border areas.

Biden said Israel’s actions in Rafah had not yet crossed the red line of entering densely populated areas, even if its actions had caused tensions in the region.

“They have not gone to the population centers. What they did is right on the border. And it is causing problems, right now, in terms of…with Egypt, which I have worked very hard with to ensure that we have a relationship and help,” he said.

He said he had conveyed to Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders that American support for operations in population centers was limited.

“I have made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet: they will not get our support if they actually attack these population centers,” he said.

The conflict in the Middle East has consumed much of Biden’s time in recent months, even as he works to promote his domestic record to American voters. Biden spoke Wednesday in Racine, Wisconsin, where she had just promoted new economic investments that could create thousands of new jobs.

In the CNN interview, he sought to reframe perceptions of the American economy, touting strong job growth and efforts to combat corporate greed while questioning polls that show voters are still pessimistic about the direction of the country.

“We’ve already turned the tables,” Biden said, responding to a question about whether, less than six months before Election Day, he was running out of time to improve his reputation among Americans for his handling of the economy. .

Biden pointed to polls showing that many Americans view their own economic situation favorably, even as they view the national economy negatively.

“Polling data has always been wrong,” he said, questioning the effectiveness of telephone surveys.

And he said his own record of creating jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic was as clear an indication as any that conditions had improved markedly for American workers.

“The idea that we’re in a situation where things are so bad that, I mean, we’ve created more jobs. “We are in a situation where people have access to well-paid jobs,” he stated.

Still, he acknowledged there were good reasons for Americans to worry, including the cost of goods and housing.

“The last thing I saw, the combination of inflation, the cost of inflation, all those things, it’s really worrying people, and rightly so,” he said.

“That is why I am working very hard to lower the cost of rentals, to increase the number of homes available,” he continued. “Let me put it this way: When I started this administration, people said the economy was going to collapse. We have the strongest economy in the world. Let me say it again: in the world.”

Biden has spent much of the last year working to advance his economic achievements, including new investments made possible by infrastructure and manufacturing legislation.

That includes Wisconsin, where he spoke Wednesday at a site where his predecessor Donald Trump once promoted an investment by Taiwan-based electronics giant Foxconn that later fell through.

But polls have shown that voters give Biden little credit for his record.

In the most recent CNN poll, Biden’s approval ratings for the economy (34 percent) and inflation (29 percent) remain sharply negative, as voters say economic concerns are more important to them than choose a candidate than in the past. two presidential races.

Biden said Wednesday that “no president has had the streak that we have had in terms of creating jobs and reducing inflation.”

“It was nine percent when I took office. Nine percent. But look, people have a right to worry. Ordinary people.”

In fact, inflation peaked at 9.1 percent in June 2022. In January 2021, when Biden was sworn in, it was 1.4 percent.

He touted his efforts to combat fees, including those on bank accounts and credit cards, which the White House says will reduce Americans’ bills.

“The idea that you bounce a check and receive a $30 fee for bouncing the check? I changed that; I can’t charge more than eight dollars for that. Or your credit card. Your late payment. $35. I mean, there is corporate greed out there and it needs to be addressed,” she said.

This is breaking news and will be updated.

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