‘US paused bomb shipment to Israel over Rafah’

The shipment was supposed to consist of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs…reports Asian Lite News

The US paused a shipment of bombs to Israel last week over concerns that Israel was approaching a decision on launching a full-scale assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah against the wishes of the US, a senior administration official said.

The shipment was supposed to consist of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, with the focus of US concern being the larger explosives and how they could be used in a dense urban setting. More than 1 million civilians are sheltering in Rafah after evacuating other parts of Gaza amid Israel’s war on Hamas, which came after the militant group’s deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

President Joe Biden’s administration in April began reviewing future transfers of military assistance to Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government appeared to move closer toward an invasion of Rafah, despite months of opposition from the White House. The official said the decision to pause the shipment was made last week and no final decision had been made yet on whether to proceed with the shipment at a later date.

The State Department is separately considering whether to approve the continued transfer of Joint Direct Attack Munition kits, which place precision guidance systems onto bombs, to Israel, but the review didn’t pertain to imminent shipments.

Israel reopens Kerem Shalom Crossing

Meanwhile, Israel has reopened the Kerem Shalom Crossing for aid to enter the Gaza Strip, two days after it was shut following a deadly rocket attack, The Times of Israel reported.

Four soldiers were killed in the rocket strike from Gaza at a ground near the Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday. Hamas had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that the crossing was reopened in the morning to allow trucks to enter Gaza, as per the “directives of the political echelon,” according to The Times of Israel report.

As per COGAT, Israel continues to inspect aid before it enters Gaza. The White House on Tuesday said that Israel had assured the US that it would open the crossing, according to a report in the Times of Israel.

Amid mounting airstrikes, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office reaffirmed on Monday the continuation of military operations in Rafah to “exert military pressure on Hamas.”

Last week, the Israeli military announced that it had shut the Karem Abu Salem gate, also known as the Kerem Shalom crossing, to aid convoys. The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, claimed the attack targeted a group of Israeli forces near the border.

The Israeli army said it spotted 10 rockets fired from Gaza’s southern city of Rafah into the area. The crossing is one of the primary routes for supplies into the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the US on Tuesday (local time) said that the closure of Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossing amid the Israeli offensive in the region has set back the delivery of humanitarian assistance, which has functioned as the main entry point for the aid deliveries to Gaza.

During a press briefing on Tuesday (local time), US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “Certainly, the closing of Kerem Shalom and the closing of Rafah set back the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Now, to some extent, the full answer to that question depends on what happens next and whether they’re quickly reopened. And Israel has committed to reopening Kerem Shalom tomorrow – we’re working to make sure that that actually happens – so humanitarian assistance can continue to come through.”

He responded to a media query on how the closure of crossings impacts the humanitarian situation in the area, keeping in mind the near-famine-like conditions there. However, Miller clarified by saying that “Kerem Shalom didn’t close just because of an action by Israel; it closed because it was bombed by Hamas.”

“We want to see it reopened as soon as possible. They’ve said they’ll do it tomorrow. Same thing with Rafah. They said that Rafah will reopen for the delivery of fuel, which is incredibly important for the desalinization of water, it’s incredibly important to fueling the trucks that deliver humanitarian assistance once it’s inside Gaza, and it’s incredibly important for running bakeries that deliver bread for the population there that needs it so much,” Miller said, adding that the US would like to see it “fully reopened.”

He noted that Rafah is also an entry point for humanitarian workers that come in, and a point of exit for those who come out of the crossing.

“It is the entry point for humanitarian workers that come in. It is the exit point for people that come out of Rafah. So it’s important that gate be open not just for the delivery of humanitarian assistance but so that humanitarian workers can come in and out of Gaza to do the important work that they do every day,” Miller added.

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