Biden withholds weapons shipment over Rafah invasion, as Gazans flee – Day 215

Biden withholds weapons shipment over Rafah invasion, as Gazans flee – Day 215

Biden administration pauses shipment of deadliest bombs to Israel; new mass grave holds at least 49 Palestinian bodies; Rafah’s largest hospital shuts down as a result of Israeli invasion, as closed crossings cause severe shortages; Israeli military promise Rafah will not be the end of the war; growing number of West Bank home demolitions; Ohio may use old anti-KKK law against pro-Palestine protesters; two new bills in Congress are new-level ridiculous; almost 700 Jewish profs urge Biden not to sign antisemitism legislation; Bahamas recognizes State of Palestine

By IAK staff, from reports

US paused shipment of bombs to Israel amid concerns over potential use in Rafah incursion

reports: The United States paused a shipment of bombs to Israel amid concerns over their potential use in a Rafah incursion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed on Wednesday.

“We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself, but that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah,” Austin said. “We’ve been very clear … 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’ve paused one shipment of high-payload munitions.”

The decision to pause the shipment appears to send a strong message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has warned for weeks that an invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah will occur at some point in the future, even as the US and others have publicly stated that such a ground operation should not occur.  The Biden administration has called for a comprehensive plan to protect more than a million civilians sheltering in Rafah.

(For more detail on the weapons shipment pause, go here.)

AXIOS ADDS: Israeli officials were sent scrambling to get an explanation for the U.S. decision to pause a weapons shipment that included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs.

Sources said Israel told the Biden administration it was upset not only about the decision to put the shipment on hold, but also about the decision to leak it to the media.

Contrary to the Israeli claims about U.S. media leaks, Axios first broke the news of the pause based on information from two Israeli officials.

REUTERS ADDS: In opening remarks in the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell harshly criticized Biden as bending “under the heat of domestic political pressure from his party’s anti-Israel base and the campus Communists who decided to wrap themselves in the flag of Hamas and Hezbollah.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on online child safety on Capitol Hill, Jan. 31, 2024, in Washington.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, speaks during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on online child safety on Capitol Hill, Jan. 31, 2024, in Washington. (photo)

Senator Lindsey Graham said, “If we stop weapons necessary to destroy the enemies of the state of Israel at a time of great peril, we will pay a price. This is obscene. It is absurd. Give Israel what they need to fight the war they can’t afford to lose.”

Bernie Sanders said, “Given the unprecedented humanitarian disaster that Netanyahu’s war has created in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of children face starvation, President Biden is absolutely right to halt bomb delivery to this extreme, right-wing Israeli government. But this must be a first step.

“The U.S. must now use ALL its leverage to demand an immediate ceasefire, the end of the attacks on Rafah, and the immediate delivery of massive amounts of humanitarian aid to people living in desperation. Our leverage is clear.

Over the years, the United States has provided tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Israel. We can no longer be complicit in Netanyahu’s horrific war against the Palestinian people.”

TIMES OF ISRAEL ADDS: Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir posted on X, “Hamas <3 [loves] Biden” as an apparent reaction to the threat of withholding weapons.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog responded,  “even when there are disagreements and moments of disappointment between friends and allies, the disputes should be resolved in a certain way, and it is beholden upon all of us to avoid baseless, irresponsible and insulting statements and tweets that harm the national security and the interests of the State of Israel.”

AL JAZEERA ADDS: Israel’s UN ambassador Gilad Erdan called Washington’s decision to hold up some weapons shipments “very disappointing”, even frustrating.

US President Joe Biden “can’t say he is our partner in the goal to destroy Hamas [in the Gaza war] while on the other hand delay the means meant to destroy Hamas”, Erdan said in an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 News.

NOTE: The damage done by the type of bombs that Biden withheld is massive. They are not considered suitable for densely populated areas – and Rafah is one of the most densely populated areas in the world right now.

At least 49 bodies found in new mass grave at al-Shifa hospital

Gaza media office says more than 520 bodies have now been found in seven mass graves at al-Shifa, Nasser and Kamal Adwan hospitals

A third mass grave has been discovered in the ruins of Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, the largest medical complex in the Palestinian enclave.

At least 49 bodies have been recovered so far from the mass grave, the government media office in Gaza said on Wednesday.

“Government crews are still recovering more bodies until now,” it said. “The exhumation operations have not finished, and we expect to find dozens of new bodies.”

Footage shared online by local journalists showed bodies being uncovered and examined by civil defence teams amid the wreckage of the medical facility, which has been ravaged by Israeli attacks.

Israeli forces withdrew from al-Shifa in early April, after a two-week seige that left the entire complex destroyed and piles of bodies in its wake.

AL JAZEERA ADDS: Some of the bodies were found without heads.

Civil defense teams in Gaza are pictured after discovering a third mass grave in the vicinity of al-Shifa hospital on 8 May 2024
Civil defense teams in Gaza are pictured after discovering a third mass grave in the vicinity of al-Shifa hospital on 8 May 2024 (photo)

Al Najjar Hospital, Rafah’s largest, shuts down

Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) says it has received an update from Dr Marwan Homs, head of al-Najjar, who said the hospital is no longer functioning because all staff have been ordered to evacuate.

“This was Rafah’s largest hospital,” MAP said.

“This means Rafah’s already overstretched and under-resourced health system is now left with only Kuwaiti Hospital, which is an NGO hospital with around [a] 16-bed capacity; Marwani field hospital, which is only a trauma stabilization point; and Al-Emairati Hospital, which is only a maternity hospital,” it added.

Desperate need for Rafah crossing to open after Israel’s seizure

Middle East Eye reports: Gaza’s health ministry said in a new press release that Israel’s closing of the enclave’s border crossings constituted “a new genocide” as it prevented travel for wounded and sick people and blocked the entry of “aid, medicine, medical supplies, food, trucks, and the fuel needed to operate hospitals”.

“Every hour, we lose some of the wounded from previous inspections who were waiting to travel to neighbouring countries, but [Israel]’s control of the crossing and its closure prevented the travel of these wounded,” the statement read.

The ministry added that the Rafah Governorate’s only dialysis center stopped operating due to Israeli bombings and threats.

The ministry launched an “urgent and humanitarian appeal” to pressure and take action in order to open the crossings, provide treatment to those in need and allow necessary aid in.

“The wounded and sick will suffer a slow death because there is no treatment [or] supplies and there is no possibility for them to travel,” the statement read.

Al Jazeera adds: Senior UN officials have warned that critical fuel supplies needed to power drinking water pumps, maintain communications and deliver humanitarian aid within Gaza are set to run out today.

The situation is especially perilous in northern Gaza, where drinking water facilities will imminently shut down due to fuel shortages.

While Israel has seized the Rafah crossing in the south, interrupting vital aid flows, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that there needs to be a “massive surge in life-saving aid” to the besieged and bombarded territory.

After Rafah, it won’t be over: Israeli military spokesman

Al Jazeera reports: Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesperson, said he expects Hamas to regroup and continue operating even after the Rafah operation, but that Israel will keep pursuing it wherever it goes.

“I want to tell the public so that they do not delude themselves: Even after we deal with Rafah, there will be terror*,” Hagari said in an interview.

“Hamas will move northwards and try to reconstitute itself, even in the next few days. In every place Hamas returns to, including in northern and central Gaza, we will return to operating.”

*NOTE: The use of words like “terror” and “terrorist” for a group that resists occupation and oppression is a political, not fact-based choice. In reality, international law supports the efforts of resistance groups against an occupying power, even to the point of armed resistance. Hamas has clearly and openly stated that its enemy is not the Jewish people, but the racist ideology of Zionism – the ideology under which Israel dispossessed 750,000 Palestinian people and exiled them to Gaza and other locations. 
As Israel claims to be carrying out a "limited operation" in Rafah, Israeli tanks amass in southern Israel near the border with Gaza
As Israel claims to be carrying out a “limited operation” in Rafah, Israeli tanks amass in southern Israel near the border with Gaza (photo)

Ohio attorney general warns student protesters in masks could face felony charges under anti-KKK law

Associated Press reports: Ohio’s top lawyer has advised the state’s public universities that a law written to deter Ku Klux Klan demonstrations could be used to impose felony charges on students who wear face coverings while protesting the war in Gaza.

In a letter sent Monday, after weeks of pro-Palestinian campus protests around the country, Republican Attorney General Dave Yost advised the presidents of Ohio’s 34 public, four-year universities — which his office represents — to forewarn students about the 1953 law.

“In our society, there are few more significant career-wreckers than a felony charge,” the letter said. “I write to you today to inform your student bodies of an Ohio law that, in the context of some behavior during the recent pro-Palestinian protests, could have that effect.”

The law is contained in a single sentence: “No person shall unite with two or more others to commit a misdemeanor while wearing white caps, masks, or other disguise.” Violating this “anti-disguise” law is punishable by a fourth-degree felony charge, up to $5,000 in fines and five years on community control, Yost wrote.

Protesters around the U.S. and the world have increasingly taken steps to remain anonymous by wearing a combination of head and face coverings, in a world where facial-recognition software can easily lead to negative repercussions.

Law enforcement form a circle around the encampment of pro-Palestinian protestors on April 29, at the University of Texas at Austin.
Law enforcement form a circle around the encampment of pro-Palestinian protestors on April 29, at the University of Texas at Austin. (photo)

Republican Introduces Absurd Bill to Send Arrested Student Protesters to Gaza

Daily Beast reports: A group of Republican lawmakers introduced a bill on Wednesday which would send “any person convicted of unlawful activity” at a college or university, to do community service in Gaza for six months.

The bill, dubbed the “Antisemitism Community Service Act,” was introduced by Rep. Andy Ogles (R-TN), and backed by Representatives Jeff Dunch (R-SC) and Randy Weber (R-TX), as part of two bills which take aim at college students.

The bill seeks to punish students opposing the U.S.-backed genocide, by sending them to the very place where Israel has used U.S. funds and weapons to kill over 34,700 people, obliterating homes, and displacing nearly two million of Palestinians.

The second bill, called the Study Abroad Act, would seek to cancel the visas of students studying abroad in the U.S., if they are “arrested for rioting or unlawful protest,” or were arrested while “establishing, participating in, or promoting an encampment.” The bill, which was exclusively released to the Daily Caller, does not require the students to be charged with an actual crime, only arrested.

Ogles posted about the new legislation on X, saying “My message is clear: if you’re a student visa holder rioting AGAINST American values and FOR Hamas terrorists, you can go study abroad in Gaza.”

Israel has reduced all of Gaza’s universities to rubble.

Nearly 700 Jewish professors call on Biden not to sign controversial antisemitism legislation

The Hill reports: A group of nearly 700 Jewish college faculty signed a letter to President Biden on Wednesday encouraging him not to back the controversial Antisemitism Awareness Act.

The academics took issue with the act’s use of the International Holocaust Awareness Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has raised concerns that legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel could be seen as antisemitic under the bill.

The bill easily passed the House last week, though 21 Republicans and 70 Democrats voted against it, with many voicing the same concerns as the faculty.

“Criticism of the state of Israel, the Israeli government, policies of the Israeli government, or Zionist ideology is not — in and of itself — antisemitic,” the letter to Biden and Senate leaders reads.

“We accordingly urge our political leaders to reject any effort to codify into federal law a definition of antisemitism that conflates antisemitism with criticism of the state of Israel,” it continues.

By using the IHRA definition in federal law, the letter claims, the bill could “delegitimize and silence Jewish Americans — among others — who advocate for Palestinian human rights or otherwise criticize Israeli policies.”

“By stifling criticism of Israel, the IHRA definition hardens the dangerous notion that Jewish identity is inextricably linked to every decision of Israel’s government,” the letter continues. “Far from combating antisemitism, this dynamic promises to amplify the real threats Jewish Americans already face.”

NOTE: Read about the highly problematic IHRA definition of antisemitism here.
The aftermath of an Israeli strike on a Rafah home
The aftermath of an Israeli strike on a Rafah home (photo)

The Bahamas formally recognizes the State of Palestine

The Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that it has formally recognized Palestine as a state, joining a growing number of countries doing so in recent weeks.

In a statement published on Tuesday, The Bahamas said it had joined the “Caribbean Community’s consensus on this matter”.

“The Bahamas became an independent nation in 1973 as an act of self-determination. Therefore, The Bahamas supports the legal right of the Palestinian people of self-determination,” the statement said.

Last week, the government of Trinidad and Tobago announced that it was officially recognizing the State of Palestine, while several EU countries are set to recognize Palestine as an independent state by the end of May.

Children sit on a truck as Palestinians with their packed belongings continue to depart from the eastern neighbourhoods of the city due to ongoing Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza, on May 8
Children sit on a truck as Palestinians with their packed belongings continue to depart from the eastern neighbourhoods of the city due to ongoing Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza, on May 8 (photo)


Al Jazeera: Colonialism is challenged but also reinforced on university campuses
Mondoweiss: ‘We are doing this in solidarity with the people of Gaza’: a Princeton student explains why he’s currently part of a hunger strike
Middle East Monitor: The teacher inspiring the children of Gaza
The New Arab: Palestinian-American historian Rashid Khalidi says student protesters feel ‘moral imperative’
The New Arab: Google fired me for standing against tech complicity in Gaza genocide. But justice cannot be stopped
IMEMC News Reports


Palestinian death toll from October 7 – May 8: at least 35,412* (34,904 in Gaza* (at least 14,690 children, 9,680 women), and at least 508 in the West Bank (117 children). This does not include an estimated 7,000 more still buried under rubble (4,900 women and children). Euro-Med Monitor reports 42,510 Palestinian deaths.

At least 42 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons (27 from Gaza, 14 from West Bank)

At least 31 Palestinian children and several adults have died due to malnutrition**

About 1.7 million, or 75% of Gaza’s population are currently displaced.

About 1.1 million (out of total population of 2.3 million) are facing Catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Palestinian injuries from October 7 – May 8: at least 83,514 (including at least 78,514 in Gaza and 5,000 in the West Bank).

It remains unknown how many Americans are among the casualties in Gaza.

Reported Israeli death toll from October 7 – May 8: ~1,421 (~1,139 on October 7, 2023, of which ~32 were Americans, and ~36 were children); 266 military forces since the ground invasion began in Gaza;, 16 in the West Bank) and~8,730 injured.

Times of Israel reports: The IDF also listed 41 soldiers killed due to friendly fire in Gaza and other military-related accidents – nearly 16%.

NOTE: It is unknown at this time how many of the deaths and injuries in Israel on October 7 were caused by Israeli soldiers.

*Previously, IAK did not include 471 Gazans killed in the Al Ahli hospital blast since the source of the projectile was being disputed. However, given that much evidence points to Israel as the culprit, Israel had previously bombed the hospital and has attacked many others, Israel is prohibiting outside experts from investigating the scene, and since the UN and other agencies are including the deaths from the attack in their cumulative totals, if Americans knew is now also doing so.

**Euro-Med Monitor reports that Gaza’s elderly are dying at an alarmingly high rate. The majority die at home and are buried either close to their residences or in makeshift graves dispersed across the Strip. There are currently more than 140 such cemeteries. Additionally, according to Euromed, thousands have died from starvation, malnourishment, and inadequate medical care; these are considered indirect victims as they were not registered in hospitals. 

Find previous daily casualty figures and daily news updates here.

Hover over each bar for exact numbers.

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