After massacre in Gaza’s Rafah, advocates ask: Where is Biden’s red line?

In early May, seven months into Israel’s devastating war on Gaza, United States President Joe Biden drew a rare red line for the top US ally.

The US president told CNN that Washington would not provide bombs and artillery shells for the Israeli army to invade Rafah in southern Gaza.

But the images of charred bodies that emerged from an Israeli attack in Rafah on Sunday have raised questions about the credibility of Biden’s “red line”. An estimated 45 people were killed in the attack, which struck a cluster of tents sheltering displaced Palestinians.

“It is deeply disappointing to see President Biden continue to allow Israel to operate with impunity,” said Ahmad Abuznaid, director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR).

“To issue a red line that you knew you weren’t going to follow through on not only means he will continue to be Genocide Joe, but it also just shows he’s weak politically.”

In recent weeks, Washington justified its failure to hold Israel to account by arguing that the offensive in Rafah was a “limited” operation, not the all-out assault that Biden had cautioned against.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller reiterated that position on Tuesday, despite Sunday’s bloodshed and Israeli tanks pushing deeper into Rafah.

“We do not want to see major military operations take place there, the way that we saw them take place in Khan Younis and in Gaza City. At this point, we have not seen a military operation on the scale of those previous operations,” Miller said.

A ‘meaningless’ red line

Palestinian rights advocates argue that the Biden administration is redefining what it considers to be an invasion of Rafah in order to be able to deny that an offensive is happening.

Yasmine Taeb, the legislative and political director for the advocacy group MPower Change Action, called Biden’s red line on Rafah “absolutely meaningless and merely a continuation of his callous and indefensible Gaza policy”.

“Israel is in violation of international humanitarian law, as well as US laws and policies, but nearly eight months of carnage in Gaza has apparently still not been enough for Biden to finally take a principled and consistent position by enforcing US laws and immediately suspending arms to Israel,” Taeb told Al Jazeera.

Israel followed Sunday’s bombing with another attack near Rafah on Tuesday that claimed the lives of at least 21 displaced Palestinians.

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