Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Confirms U.S. Withholding Weapons to Israel Over Ongoing Attack on Hamas in Rafah -
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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Confirms U.S. Withholding Weapons to Israel Over Ongoing Attack on Hamas in Rafah

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed Wednesday at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the U.S. is withholding a shipment of weapons to Israel due to concerns about its ongoing attack on Hamas in Rafah.

Austin, while claiming that the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s security was “ironclad,” said that the U.S. had concerns about Israel’s potential use of large bombs in Rafah and had therefore paused a bomb shipment.

“We’ve been very 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 battlespace. And again, as we have assessed the situation, we have paused one shipment of high payload munitions,” he said.

Austin stated that the “pause” did not impact the $23 billion in military aid allocated for Israel through the recent national security supplemental budget.

Austin was interrupted by Code Pink anti-war protesters shouting “Free Palestine!” and holding up red-painted hands. Israelis regard the “red hands” symbol as a reference to the Palestinian lynching of two Israeli soldiers in 2002.

He said that the U.S. position remained that there should be “no major conflict” in Rafah, even though Hamas is retaining its last four battalions there, and allowing Hamas to survive would allow it to retake control in Gaza.

Republican Senators were incredulous. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Austin and Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whether they would have ordered the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in the Second World War. Graham noted that Israel was fighting a war for its survival against Iran and its terrorist proxies and that the U.S. not withhold weapons: “Give Israel what they need to fight the war they can’t afford to lose!”

Austin reiterated multiple times that the United States was withholding large bombs because it wanted Israel to utilize the “right kinds of weapons.”

He emphasized that the decision to withhold arms was not yet definitive.

That did not convince critics.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told Austin that the decision to pause an arms shipment was, itself, a decision, and noted that Israel has been careful about trying to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza despite Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields.

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