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Lindsey Graham, Katie Britt, Ted Cruz
Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Katie Britt and Sen. Ted Cruz, among other Republican senators, criticized President Joe Biden for pausing certain munitions shipments to Israel. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Republicans Say Civilian Deaths in Gaza Are Not a Reason to Condition Aid to Israel

Angry with Biden’s arms hold, Republicans call civilian casualties “just part of war.”

Republicans, furious that President Joe Biden has delayed certain munitions shipments to Israel, say civilian casualties in Gaza should not be a reason to condition military aid.

“Ask every Democrat and Republican ‘Were you okay with using two nuclear bombs against Japan to end the war?’” Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters Thursday.

Biden directed the Air Force last weekend to not sign for arms bound for Israel, citing concerns about Israel’s plans to invade Rafah, where more than 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

In an interview on Wednesday night, Biden said he told Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet that “they’re not going to get our support, if in fact, they go in these population centers.”

Biden’s comments infuriated Republicans in Congress, who have demanded further explanation from the administration, particularly in light of the White House’s support of the military aid package for Israel that Congress passed last month.

“I want Israel to be compliant of course, follow the rules, but understand that Hamas are using the rules to their advantage,” Graham told NOTUS. “The worst thing that can happen for the future of civilian casualties is to reward Hamas. Because the tactic in the future will be grab as many civilians as you can, put them in harm’s way, and the victim becomes the aggressor.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville was even more blunt. “We killed a lot of innocent people going into Iraq and Afghanistan and all that…it’s just part of war, unfortunately,” he said.

Sens. Roger Marshall and Ted Cruz said they believe Israel has made efforts to mitigate civilian casualties. “I’m absolutely convinced that they want to minimize civilian casualties. I’m sure they’re keeping track of them,” Marshall told NOTUS when asked after the press conference about civilian casualties.

“[Israel’s] objective is to kill zero civilians and there is no military on the face of the earth that does more to protect civilians, to avoid civilian casualties,” Cruz said.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza since Israel began its assault after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack. The United States has acknowledged worsening famine and escalated its frustrations that Israel has limited humanitarian aid into the region. The State Department is due to submit a report investigating whether Israel has used U.S. weapons in violation of international humanitarian law, as NGOs have reported.

This debate over Israel’s conduct and whether the U.S. can legally support it takes place as Hamas and Israel’s negotiations over a temporary cease-fire and the release of the remaining hostages stall. According to Politico, Hamas pulled back from previous agreements after Israel’s operations began in Rafah. Israel now has ground forces around the perimeter of the city and has taken control of the border crossing point at Kerem Shalom after weeks of initial airstrikes.

Sen. Josh Hawley said while there may be a “red line” for Israel to cross in its campaign, “they haven’t crossed it.”

“Given the track record of what our military has done in prior conflicts, I don’t think we want to be too judging here,” Hawley said.

John T. Seward is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.