Senate Democrats condemn looming IDF attack on Rafah as Biden poised to send more aid to Israel

As tensions between the US and Israel heighten, Democratic Senators are condemning Israel’s recent announcement they have solidified plans to invade Rafah.

Some 1.4 million Palestinians are currently sheltering in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) instructed civilians to move southward when they bombarded northern Gaza. Despite this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Monday his military has solidified plans to invade the city.

“It will happen, there is a date,” Mr Netanyahu said in a video address, per a translation from the Associated Press.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, a staunch opponent of US aid to Israel, called on President Joe Biden’s administration to halt any assistance.

“Given the conduct of the Israel and Netanyahu war machine, the US should not provide another nickel to Netanyahu,” Mr Sanders told The Independent.

Mr Biden still appears to be poised to greenlight an $18bn sale of jets to the IDF as of Sunday, CNN reports. He also recently authorised the sale of more than 2,000 bombs to the IDF. White House officials told the outlet these sales are the result of processes agreed upon years ago.

But the Biden administration has still repeatedly urged Mr Netanyahu to avoid a full-scale invasion of Rafah. Just last week, administration officials met with Israeli delegates to discuss alternatives to a ground assault. Both sides described the call as productive — which makes Mr Netanyahu’s recent announcement all the more perplexing.

Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told The Independent that an Israeli offensive into Rafah could backfire on Mr Netanyahu.

“He has to decide whether he wants US support or not, and ignoring significant concerns expressed by the President and our chief defence officials is not going to work out in Israel’s favour,” Mr Kaine said.

Mr Netanyahu’s announcement comes one week after the IDF killed seven World Central Kitchen humanitarian aid workers. Following a preliminary investigation, the IDF said the attacks were a mistake. The Israeli military targeted the group with airstrikes three times in a row, despite the nonprofit clearing their movements with the army ahead of time and marking their vehicles with the World Central Kitchen logo.

“This is not any more about the seven men and women of World Central Kitchen that perished [in] this unfortunate event,” World Central Kitchen founder Jose Andrés said Monday. “This [war] is happening for way too long. It’s been six months of targeting anything that ... moves”.

“This really, at this point, seems it’s a war against humanity itself,” he continued.

Those killed in the attack include Lalzawmi Francom, 43, from Australia; Damian Sobol, 35, from Poland; James Henderson, 33, James Kirby, 47, and John Chapman, 57, all from the UK; Saifeddin Issam Ayad Abutaha, 25, from Gaza; and Jacob Flickinger, 33, a dual American-Canadian citizen.

Soon afterwards, Mr Biden spoke with Israeli officials, telling them “US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action” in the wake of the aid workers’ deaths. He further criticised the IDF for not doing “enough” to protect civilians and humanitarian aid workers alike. The president also called a ceasefire in Gaza “essential” last week.

The aid workers’ deaths marked something of a turning point for Congressional Democrats. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said an international court has “ample evidence” to find that Israel’s war in Gaza is a genocide.

Her comments, made on Friday, referred to an “ongoing legal process” at the United Nation’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). That court is currently hearing a case from South Africa alleging Israel is committing genocide in Gaza — in January, the court ruled that South Africa’s claims against Israel are “plausible.”