US Defense Secretary Austin confirms pause in military aid to Israel

US President Joe Biden has decided to hold up a shipment of ammunition to Israel. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed the decision on Wednesday at a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting.

Austin reassured lawmakers that US commitment to Israeli security is "ironclad." Still, he said the Biden administration is "reviewing" the assistance in relation to "unfolding events" in Gaza. He added that Israel should not launch a major attack in Rafah "without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battle space."

Austin said US officials have not made a "final determination" on how to proceed with the shipment.

Israel's military spokesperson Daniel Hagari addressed the issue at a conference. He said US support since the conflict began in October has been at an "unprecedented scale." He added that any "disputes" are resolved "behind closed doors."

Negotiators from Israel and Hamas are weighing the latest proposals for a ceasefire. There have not been any reports of developments.

The fighting in and around Rafah is intensifying. Israeli forces seized control of a crossing that is essential to the delivery of humanitarian aid and have kept it closed.

Troops say they have reopened another crossing at Kerem Shalom to allow aid into Gaza. Still, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the level of humanitarian assistance is "unacceptable" and that President Biden has been telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu there needs to be a "dramatic change."