update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Report: US withholding ‘sensitive intelligence’ on Hamas from Israel

The Biden administration is willing to share "valuable" information regarding the whereabouts of Hamas's leadership and tunnels to stave off an Israeli invasion of Rafah, according to the Washington Post.

U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

The Biden administration will share key intelligence with Israel about the whereabouts of Hamas’s leadership in Gaza if Israel agrees not to go ahead with its military operation in Rafah, according to The Washington Post.

“The Biden administration, working urgently to stave off a full-scale Israeli invasion of Rafah, is offering Israel valuable assistance if it holds back, including sensitive intelligence to help the Israeli military pinpoint the location of Hamas leaders and find the group’s hidden tunnels, according to four people familiar with the U.S. offers,” said the report.

The United States is seeking to delay the operation, concerned that Israel is not doing enough to ensure the safety of the over one million Gazans sheltered in Rafah should a full-scale invasion move forward, according to the sources cited by the Washington Post.

In addition to intelligence, American officials have also offered to help provide Israel with assistance for Rafah evacuees, including “thousands of shelters so Israel can build tent cities—and to help with the construction of delivery systems for food, water and medicine,” the sources said.

Israel’s military has already evacuated hundreds of thousands of people from eastern Rafah to an expanded humanitarian zone at Al-Mawasi as part of a limited operation in the city that began on May 6. As part of the operation’s initial stage, Israeli forces took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah Crossing between the Strip and Egypt.

IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Saturday night that dozens of terrorists have been killed, underground tunnels uncovered and weapons confiscated during the operation so far, stressing that the activities there “remain limited in scope and focus on tactical advances; tactical adjustments; and military advantages—and have avoided densely populated areas.”

The Rafah operation, which Israel estimates will last around two months, is being carried out in phases as opposed to a sudden, full scale invasion, according to Israel’s Channel 12.

The phased nature of the operation allows for it to be paused should a hostage release deal be reached between Israel and Hamas, according to the report.

The Biden administration last week announced the halt of offensive arms shipments to Israel over the looming operation in Gaza’s southernmost city.

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “If they [the IDF] go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities—that deal with that problem.” 

He went on to state that his administration wasn’t walking away from Israel’s security and would “continue to make sure Israel is secure in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks that came out of the Middle East recently,” such as Iran’s April 14 ballistic missile and drone attack.  

However, with regard to offensive armaments of the type that would likely be used in Rafah, “it’s just wrong,” he continued. “We’re not going to—we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells,” he said.

The announcement led to widespread backlash both in Israel and the United States.

“This may give them encouragement, the enemies of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel,” said Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan.

“If Israel is restricted from entering such an important and central area such as Rafah, where thousands of terrorists, hostages and the leaders of Hamas are still present, how exactly is the goal of destroying Hamas supposed to be achieved?” he continued.

According to Israel, defeating Hamas’s remaining four battalions in Rafah are essential to winning the war and securing the return of the hostages still being held by the terrorist group.

Rep. Ritchie Torres tweeted, “As the leader of the free world, America cannot claim that its commitment to Israel is ‘iron-clad’ and then proceed to withhold aid from Israel. The mixed messaging makes a mockery of our credibility as an ally. No one will take our word seriously.”

Biden’s CNN announcement came a few days after Israel was blind-sided by Hamas’s public “acceptance” of a ceasefire deal the Jewish state had not even seen.

According to Axios, Israeli officials were reportedly surprised to see “many new elements” in the deal, that were not contained in the previous proposal to which Israel had agreed and which had been presented to Hamas by the American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators 10 days earlier.

The U.S. and the other mediators had drafted “a new deal” and were not transparent about it, two Israeli officials told Axios. The officials went on to state that they suspect the Biden administration gave Hamas guarantees via the Egyptians and Qataris about ending the war, which the terror group demands but which Jerusalem says is a nonstarter until Hamas is defeated, the hostages are released and Gaza never again poses a threat to Israel.

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