JOE Biden has said that the US will not supply offensive weapons that Israel could be used to launch an all-out assault on Rafah over concern for the wellbeing of the more than one million civilians sheltering there.

Biden, in an interview with CNN, said the US was still committed to Israel’s defence and would supply Iron Dome rocket interceptors and other defensive arms – but that if Israel goes into Rafah, “we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells used, that have been used”.

The interview marked Biden’s toughest public comments yet about the potential Israeli military operation.

READ MORE: UK will keep arming Israel despite Rafah 'devastation', Rishi Sunak insists

It follows his decision to pause a shipment of heavy bombs to Israel last week over concerns that the US ally was moving closer to an attack on Rafah despite public and private warnings from his administration.

The UK Government has been more hardline than the US and completely refused to consider stopping weapons shipments to Israel.

In April, court documents revealed Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch approved arms exports to the country just days after its military killed three British aid workers.

The US has historically provided enormous amounts of military aid to Israel, and that has only accelerated in the aftermath of Hamas’ October 7 attack that killed some 1200 in Israel and led to about 250 being taken captive by militants.

Biden’s comments and the pausing of a shipment of heavy bombs to Israel are the most striking manifestations of the growing daylight between his administration and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

The National: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Ohad Zwigenberg/AP)

Biden has said that Israel needs to do far more to protect the lives of civilians in Gaza.

The shipment that was paused by the US was supposed to consist of 1800 2000lb bombs and 1700 500lb bombs, according to a senior US administration official.

The focus of US concern was the larger explosives and how they could be used in a dense urban setting.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centres,” Biden told CNN.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they 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.”

Defence secretary Lloyd Austin earlier on Wednesday confirmed the weapons delay, telling the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defence that the US paused “one shipment of high payload munitions”.

“We’re going to continue to do what’s necessary to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself,” Austin said.

“But that said, we are currently reviewing some near-term security assistance shipments in the context of unfolding events in Rafah.”

It also comes as the Biden administration is due to deliver a first-of-its-kind formal verdict this week on whether the airstrikes on Gaza and restrictions on delivery of aid have violated international and US laws designed to spare civilians from the worst horrors of war.

A decision against Israel would further add to pressure on Biden to curb the flow of weapons and money to Israel’s military.

Biden signed off on the pause in an order conveyed last week to the Pentagon, according to US officials.

The White House National Security Council sought to keep the decision out of the public eye for several days until it had a better understanding of the scope of Israel’s intensified military operations in Rafah and until Biden could deliver a long-planned speech on Tuesday to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The National: Joe Biden (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Biden’s administration in April began reviewing future transfers of military assistance as Netanyahu’s government appeared to move closer toward an invasion of Rafah, despite months of opposition from the White House.

The official said the decision to pause the shipment was made last week and no final decision had been made yet on whether to proceed with the shipment at a later date.

US officials had declined for days to comment on the halted transfer, word of which came as Biden on Tuesday described US support for Israel as “ironclad, even when we disagree”.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, in an interview with Israeli Channel 12 TV news, said the decision to pause the shipment was “a very disappointing decision, even frustrating”.

He suggested the move stemmed from political pressure on Biden from Congress, the US campus protests and the upcoming election.

Israeli troops on Tuesday seized control of Gaza’s vital Rafah border crossing in what the White House described as a limited operation that stopped short of the full-on Israeli invasion of the city that Biden has repeatedly warned against on humanitarian grounds, most recently in a Monday call with Netanyahu.

Israel has ordered the evacuation of 100,000 Palestinians from the city.

Israeli forces have also carried out what it describes as “targeted strikes” on the eastern part of Rafah and captured the Rafah crossing, a critical conduit for the flow of humanitarian aid along the Gaza-Egypt border.