Joe Biden
Joe BidenREUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

US President Joe Biden told CNN on Wednesday he would halt shipments of American weapons to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders a major invasion of the city of Rafah.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett in an exclusive interview, referring to 2,000-pound bombs that Biden paused shipments of last week.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities – that deal with that problem,” Biden added.

Biden said that while the US would continue to provide defensive weapons to Israel, including for its Iron Dome air defense system, other shipments would end should a major ground invasion of Rafah begin.

“We’re going to continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently,” he told CNN. “But it’s, it’s just wrong. We’re not going to – we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells.”

Biden also stressed that Israel’s actions in Rafah had not yet crossed a red line of entering heavily populated zones, even if their actions had caused tensions in the region.

“They haven’t gone into the population centers. What they did is right on the border. And it’s causing problems with, right now, in terms of – with Egypt, which I’ve worked very hard to make sure we have a relationship and help,” he said, adding he had conveyed to Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders that American support for operations in population centers was limited.

“I’ve made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet: They’re not going to get our support, if in fact they go on these population centers,” the President said.

The interview comes a day after a US official confirmed that the US had paused a shipment of bombs to Israel last week over concerns that Israel was approaching a decision on launching a full-scale assault on Rafah.

The shipment which was paused was supposed to consist of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, a US official told The Associated Press, with the focus of US concern being the larger explosives and how they could be used in a dense urban setting.

The US has long been vocal in its opposition to an Israeli operation in Rafah. On Sunday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. A Pentagon statement released after the call said that Austin “stressed the need for any potential Israeli military operation in Rafah to include a credible plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians and maintain the flow of humanitarian aid.”

Those comments were a reiteration of comments made by Austin during a conversation with Gallant last week.

On Wednesday, Kan News reported that the United States has warned Israel not to expand its military operations in Rafah.

According to the report, Israel made clear to the Americans that preventing the delivery of precise munitions can harm the military effort, strengthen Hamas, and therefore may threaten a deal for a ceasefire and hostage release.