IDF spokesman plays down US arms shipment holdup, says disagreements resolved privately

Daniel Hagari praises the US military’s support and cooperation in Gaza, but warns that controversial Rafah operation won’t stop terror attacks.

Israel Defense Forces minimized Wednesday the apparent unprecedented delay of an arms shipment caused by a US Administration concerned about the possibility of a major Israeli military operation in southern Gazan City of Rafah. They said that the allies settle any disputes “behind close doors.”

When asked about the issue during a Tel Aviv press conference organized by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, described the coordination between Israel, the United States, as “an extent without precedent in Israel’s recent history.”

Hagari, when pressed about the delayed delivery of heavy bombs said: “We are responsible to Israel’s security and we also pay attention to US interests.”

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He praised the extent of cooperation between IDF Headquarters and the US Central Command (CENTCOM) throughout the war and said “there’s something more important than security support and that’s operational support.”

The Biden Administration confirmed on Tuesday that they had held back a large shipment 2,000 and 500 pound bombs, which it was afraid Israel would use in an imminent major ground operation near the densely-populated southern Gaza City of Rafah.

The US is holding up an IDF weapons shipment for almost the first time after the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict. It has been supplying the IDF on a nearly constant basis since October 7.

Washington is adamantly opposed to a major offensive at Rafah. It believes that Israel cannot conduct such an operation while guaranteeing the safety of more than a million Palestinians who are sheltering in the area.

Israeli officials claim that four of Hamas’s six remaining battalions, as well as members of its leadership, are located in the city. They also say that many of the hostages taken by the terror group from Israel in the wake of the attack on October 7, which sparked the Gaza war, can be found in the same area.

Since months, Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israeli troops would carry out an offensive to eliminate the last Hamas strongholds at Rafah regardless of the outcome of ongoing hostage negotiations that envisage an extended ceasefire of several weeks for the release of certain captives.

Hagari acknowledged that a major Rafah campaign would be difficult to launch, explaining the reason why it wasn’t started months ago. The “operational conditions” weren’t in place because of the large number of Gazans seeking refuge in Rafah and its surrounding areas.

Rafah is not as important, he added, as Khan Younis or northern Gaza, which are other areas in the Gaza Strip where the IDF had already conducted operations.

Hagari stated that “we will deal with Rafah the way we see fit” and warned “even after Rafah is dealt with, terrorism will continue.” Hamas is moving north to regroup and will do so in the days ahead. “We will go back to the front lines wherever Hamas is, whether it’s in the Strip or the north.”

On Tuesday, the IDF took control of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This was a day after the IDF had urged 100,000 Palestinians in the eastern parts of the city to leave. Washington seemed to approve of the limited operation by saying that its goals were legit.

The conflict was started by Hamas’ terror attack on Israel, which took place on October 7, in which 1,200 people died and 252 hostages, mostly civilians, were taken. The Hamas terror group abducted 138 hostages on October 7, but only 118 are still in Gaza. Two hundred sixty-seven Israelis have been killed in the ground offensive against Hamas as well as operations near the Gaza border.

Hamas’ Gaza Health Ministry says that more than 34,000 people have died in the Strip in fighting. This figure cannot be independently verified, and it includes the 13,000 Hamas gunmen Israel claims to have killed in battle. Israel claims to have killed 1,000 terrorists in Israel on October 7th.