Dozens of Democrats say Rafah invasion could violate Biden conditions on aid to Israel

Dozens of Democrats sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday warning that an anticipated invasion into Rafah could violate the U.S.’s conditions on sending aid to Israel.

A group of 37 House Democrats spearheaded by Reps. Joaquin Castro (Texas), Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) sent a letter to President Biden on Tuesday sounding the alarm bells of an an anticipated Israeli invasion of Rafah. They wrote that a Rafah invasion would “likely contravene” principles outlined in a recent memo put out by the Biden administration last month.

“The memorandum emphasizes the importance of credible assurances from recipient countries that they will use U.S. weapons in adherence with international humanitarian law,” they wrote. “While we continue to urge Israel to avoid an expanded operation in Rafah, we share your obvious concern about the absence of a credible plan for the safety and support of the more than one million civilians sheltering in Rafah.”

They wrote that any ground invasion “that runs counter to the specific principles outlined” in the memorandum “should not be supported by U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance.”

The memorandum requires the U.S. to receive assurances from countries that U.S. weapons being used in an active conflict comply with international law and that no efforts are being made to obstruct humanitarian aid deliveries.

The Biden administration has warned Israel against invading Rafah without a plan to protect civilians. About 1.4 million Palestinians were estimated to be seeking refuge in the southern city of Rafah as Israel continued its retaliatory attacks targeting the militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Israeli officials appeared to have set a deadline to invade Rafah on the Muslim holy day of Ramadan on March 10. Israel has argued that it must move into Rafah to defeat Hamas, which was responsible for the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that left about 1,200 people dead.

The lawmakers emphasized their concerns about the invasion in their letter to Biden.

“We write to express our deep sense of urgency and alarm about the potentially devastating consequences to innocent civilians of an Israeli military ground invasion of Rafah. We share the position highlighted by US Ambassador to the UN [Linda Thomas-Greenfield] that ‘no attacks on Rafah should take place, given current circumstances,’” the lawmakers wrote.

“An extensive Israeli offensive in Rafah would further deteriorate the already dreadful conditions for civilians, more than half of whom are on the brink of famine, as well as risk the lives of the 130 Israeli and American hostages still held in Gaza by exposing them to the threat of aerial bombardments and derailing a negotiated agreement that could lead to their release,” they added.

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