US President Joe Biden for the first time publicly vowed to withhold weapons from Israel if its forces make a major invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza while negotiations in Cairo on a ceasefire plan for the enclave were due to continue on Thursday.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah …, I’m not supplying the weapons,” Biden, whose administration has repeatedly asked Israel for its plan to protect civilians in Rafah, said on Wednesday in an interview with CNN.

Biden acknowledged that US bombs provided to Israel have killed Gaza civilians in the seven-month-old offensive aimed at annihilating Hamas.

Biden’s comments, his starkest to date, increase the pressure on Israel to refrain from a full-scale assault on Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge after fleeing combat farther north in Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on Biden’s remarks, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the Rafah operation would go ahead. Israel says it must hit Rafah to defeat thousands of Hamas fighters it says are there.

Israel, meanwhile, continued tank and aerial strikes on southern Gaza after moving in via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday, cutting off a vital aid route.

Biden has been under pressure from his fellow Democrats and growing campus protests to deter Israel from invading Rafah. His support of Israel has become a political liability as the president runs for re-election.

The United States is by far the biggest supplier of weapons to Israel, and it accelerated deliveries after the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 that triggered Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Biden said US weapons for Israel’s defense, such as for its Iron Dome anti-missile system, would continue.

US officials confirmed on Wednesday that Washington paused delivery of a shipment of bombs to Israel because of the risk to civilians in Gaza.

Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gilad Erdan, called that decision “very disappointing” but said he did not believe the US would stop supplying arms to Israel.


Palestinian militant group Hamas said late on Wednesday it would not make more concessions to Israel in the truce talks.

In Cairo, delegations from Hamas, Israel, the US, Egypt and Qatar have been meeting since Tuesday. Citing a source familiar with the matter, Egypt’s state-affiliated Al Qahera TV reported early on Thursday that areas of disagreement were being resolved and there were signs that an agreement will be reached, without giving details.

But Izzat El-Reshiq, a member of Hamas’ political office in Qatar, said in a statement late on Wednesday that the group would not go beyond a ceasefire proposal it accepted on Monday. It would also entail the release of some Israeli hostages in Gaza and Palestinian women and children detained in Israel.

“Israel isn’t serious about reaching an agreement and it is using the negotiation as a cover to invade Rafah and occupy the crossing,” said Reshiq.

Israel on Monday declared that the three-phase truce proposal approved by Hamas was unacceptable because terms had been watered down. It did not respond immediately to the Hamas statement.

The US said on Tuesday that Hamas had revised its ceasefire proposal and the revision could overcome an impasse in negotiations. Just a few hours before Hamas’ latest statement, Washington continued to say the two sides were not far apart.

“We believe there is a pathway to a deal … The two sides are close enough they should do what they can to get to a deal,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 128 remain hostage in Gaza and 36 have been declared dead, according to the latest Israeli figures.


Hamas said its fighters on Wednesday were battling Israeli forces in Rafah’s east and Islamic Jihad’s fighters attacked Israeli soldiers and military vehicles with heavy artillery near the city’s long abandoned airport.

Israeli tank shells landed in the middle of Rafah wounding at least 25 people on Wednesday, medics said. Residents said an Israeli air strike killed four people and wounded 16 others in western Rafah.

The Israeli military said it troops had discovered Hamas infrastructure in several places in eastern Rafah and were conducting targeted raids in Rafah and airstrikes across the Gaza Strip.

The U.N., Gaza residents and humanitarian groups say further Israeli incursion into Rafah will result in a humanitarian catastrophe.

A U.N. official said no fuel or aid had entered the Gaza Strip due to the military operation, a situation “disastrous for the humanitarian response” in Gaza where more than half the population is suffering catastrophic hunger.

Palestinians have crammed into tented camps and makeshift shelters, suffering from shortages of food, water and medicine.

“The streets of the city echo with the cries of innocent lives lost, families torn apart, and homes reduced to rubble,” Rafah Mayor Ahmed Al-Sofi said, appealing to the international community to intervene.