A woman reacts as she waits with others before evacuating from Rafah

A woman reacts as she waits with others before evacuating from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 11, 2024.

(Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Rebuked Over 'Ever-Shifting Red Lines' as Israel Expands Rafah Attack

"It is time for the Biden administration to admit the obvious, fully cut off the flow of weapons to the Israeli government, demand an immediate cease-fire, and hold Israeli officials to account for their crimes against humanity," said one critic.

Looking on as the number of people forced to flee Rafah neared half a million and Israel began expanding its assault on the southern Gaza city, human rights advocates on Tuesday demanded that U.S. President Joe Biden enforce the so-called "red line" he set months ago and end his support for Israel's war on Palestinian civilians.

Just over a week after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) seized control of the Rafah crossing, cutting off aid as the United Nations warned of "full-blown famine" in parts of Gaza, the U.N. said about 450,000 people have now fled the southern city.

NBC Newsreported Tuesday that the IDF had begun sending tanks into residential areas of eastern Rafah including the neighborhood of Al-Jneina. Two U.S. officials told the outlet that the troop movement indicated potential expanded operations in Rafah.

Biden said in March that an invasion of Rafah, where more than 1 million people have been displaced since October as Israel decimated other Gaza cities and ordered civilians to move south, would be a "red line" and would push him to cut off military aid to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. The White House paused a shipment of weapons last week and reiterated that the IDF was "not going to get our support" if it went through with a full-scale Rafah attack.

With at least 450,000 people once again forced to flee and Israel continuing to block humanitarian aid, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) executive director Nihad Awad was among those who said Biden must follow through on his threat to Israel.

"The Israeli government continues to flout all of the Biden administration's ever-shifting red lines on Rafah, as well as U.S. law that forbids aid recipients from blocking humanitarian deliveries," said Awad, referring to the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act, Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. "Just like in other cities across Gaza, we are witnessing the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land and the slaughter of countless civilians. It is time for the Biden administration to admit the obvious, fully cut off the flow of weapons to the Israeli government, demand an immediate cease-fire, and hold Israeli officials to account for their crimes against humanity."

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, announced Tuesday that Israel's incursion had forced it to shut down Rafah Indonesian Field Hospital and send 22 remaining patients to other facilities as the group could "no longer guarantee their safety."

"We have had to leave 12 different health structures and have endured 26 violent incidents, which include airstrikes damaging hospitals, tanks being fired at agreed deconflicted shelters, ground offensives into medical centers, and convoys fired upon," said Michel-Olivier Lacharité, head of emergency operations for MSF.

Israel's evacuation orders in Rafah over the past week have garnered international outrage, with one official at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) refuting Israel's suggestion that it was carrying out an "orderly evacuation" and calling it a "grave breach of humanitarian law."

Former Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said Israel's evacuation orders show its incursion is not the "limited operation" Netanyahu has claimed to be undertaking.

Israel has repeatedly ordered civilians in Gaza to flee to so-called "safe zones," only to then bomb the areas as officials claim to be targeting Hamas.

Al Jazeera reported Tuesday that eight family members who obeyed Israel's orders to leave Rafah in recent days were among those killed in a bombing at Nuseirat refugee camp.

"This shows that there is no safe space in the Gaza strip, even if the Israeli forces warn Palestinians to evacuate from a place to another, this does not get a guarantee that you are evacuating to a safe place," said reporter Hind Khoudary.

At The Hill on Tuesday, former State Department Middle East policy expert Wa'el Alzayat noted that as Israel is intensifying its assault on Rafah, "the Biden administration has continued to send offensive and defensive weapons to Israel" following its pause on one shipment.

"The president must enforce his own policy and suspend weapons deliveries to Israel," said Alzayat. "Failure to do so would only embolden Israeli [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu to ignore U.S. warnings and move forward against Rafah with disastrous consequences for the people of Gaza and the region."

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