After massacre in Rafah, Gaza, advocates ask: Where is Biden’s red line? | Israel-Palestine Conflict News

Washington DC – In early May, seven months after Israel’s devastating war on Gaza, US President Joe Biden drew an unusual red line for America’s main ally.

The US president told CNN that Washington would not provide bombs or artillery shells to the Israeli army to invade Rafah, southern Gaza.

But images of charred bodies emerging from an Israeli strike in Rafah on Sunday have raised questions about the credibility of Biden’s “red line.” An estimated 45 people were killed in the attack, which targeted a group of tents housing displaced Palestinians.

“It is deeply disappointing to see President Biden continue to allow Israel to operate with impunity,” said Ahmad Abuznaid, director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).

“Issuing a red line that you knew you weren’t going to follow not only means he’ll still be Genocide Joe, it also shows he’s politically weak.”

In recent weeks, Washington justified its failure to hold Israel accountable by arguing that the offensive in Rafah was a “limited” operation, not the all-out attack that Biden had warned against.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller reiterated that position on Tuesday, despite Sunday’s bloodshed and Israeli tanks advancing deeper into Rafah.

“We do not want major military operations to take place there, as we saw in Khan Younis and Gaza City. To this point, we have not seen a military operation on the scale of those previous operations,” Miller said.

He added that the United States could not “verify” that Israeli military vehicles were in the center of Rafah, which has been confirmed by Palestinian witnesses and Israeli media.

A ‘meaningless’ red line

Palestinian rights advocates argue that the Biden administration is redefining what it considers an invasion of Rafah so it can deny that an offensive is taking place.

Yasmine Taeb, legislative and policy director of the advocacy group MPower Change Action, called Biden’s red line on Rafah “absolutely meaningless and simply a continuation of his callous and indefensible Gaza policy.”

“Israel is violating international humanitarian law as well as US laws and policies, but nearly eight months of carnage in Gaza apparently still have not been enough for Biden to finally take a coherent and principled position in enforcing US laws and suspending weapons immediately. to Israel,” Taeb told Al Jazeera.

Israel followed Sunday’s bombing with another attack near Rafah on Tuesday that claimed the lives of at least 21 displaced Palestinians.

Mohamad Habehh, development director for American Muslims for Palestine, also called Biden’s “red line” meaningless.

“The Biden administration has failed to hold Israel accountable since October. We are now in the eighth month of this. And we are seeing that new massacre every day,” Habehh told Al Jazeera.

Earlier this month, the United States withheld a single shipment of heavy bombs to Israel, citing disagreements over Rafah. The move raised hopes among rights advocates that Washington is finally reconsidering its unconditional support for Israel.

That optimism soon dissipated after several US officials emphasized “strong” support for Israel and the Biden administration approved the transfer of $1 billion in weapons to its ally.

Israel receives at least $3.8 billion in US military aid annually, and last month Biden approved $14 billion in additional assistance to the country.

The Center for International Policy (CIP), a US-based think tank, renewed calls to withhold weapons from Israel after Sunday’s deadly attack.

“The mass killing of civilians seeking refuge, whether by mistake or otherwise, is exactly what President Biden said would be unacceptable regarding an Israeli offensive in Rafah,” Dylan Williams, vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. of the CIP.

“Biden should not wait for a pro forma Israeli investigation; he should keep his word and suspend the weapons right now.”

The United States describes the massacre as “heartbreaking”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the attack as a “tragic mistake” and promised an investigation.

At Tuesday’s press conference at the State Department, Miller also called the massacre “heartbreaking” but attributed it to a “fire” rather than an Israeli bombing. He said Washington will closely monitor the Israeli investigation.

But Habehh said citing Israel’s investigations is a tactic the United States uses to deflect responsibility, allowing it to indefinitely delay assessing rights violations.

Basically, Habehh explained, that gives the United States time to wait for stories of Israeli atrocities to “go away.”

“It is very difficult to allow the person who committed the crime to investigate whether he committed it or not,” Habehh told Al Jazeera.

As the horrors in Gaza intensify, advocates say it is becoming clear that the Biden administration has no plans to change course despite issuing statements against the Rafah invasion and calling for the protection of civilians.

“Perhaps Biden’s concerns about the Palestinians have faded along with the port they were building along the coast of Gaza,” Abuznaid said, referring to a maritime hub Washington built to deliver aid to the territory, which was damaged by the high tide in recent times. days.