Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is greeted by Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 13, 2023. (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin today confirmed media reports that shipments of bombs to Israel have been paused, but indicated those weapons could still find their way to Jerusalem in the future.

“We’ve paused one shipment of high-payload munitions,” Austin said in response to questions from Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., during a hearing at the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. However, he added that “We have not made a final determination on how to proceed with that shipment,” signaling that the White House could still approve shipping them in the future.

In response to a follow-up from another senator, Austin reiterated, “We are assessing. We have not made any final decisions on this yet. But yes, there are some things we are taking a closer look at.”

Austin tied the pause in the weapons to concerns from the Biden administration about Israel’s planned offensive in the Rafah area of Gaza, saying, “I think we’ve been very clear about the steps we’d like to see Israel take to account for and take care of those civilians before major combat takes place. We certainly would like to see no major combat take place in Rafah, but certainly our focus is on making sure we protect the civilians.”

Austin did not specify which weapons were impacted. Politico on Tuesday reported that the shipment of two Boeing-made weapons — Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs — was being held up. CNN subsequently reported the package would include 1,800 2,000-pound weapons and 1,700 500-pound weapons — which roughly match the characteristics of the JDAM and the ground-launched SDB.

Israel has ordered the estimated 100,000 civilians in Rafah to evacuate the city, even as negotiations in Qatar between Israel and Hamas on a cease fire are ongoing. The Biden administration is concerned that any Rafah operation will lead to massive civilian casualties.

Later in the hearing, Austin said that he does not view the Gaza situation as having led to a “regional conflict,” in part due to US actions early on to create deterrence. “In terms of Iran and its actions in the region, Iran continues to present a threat to the region, and that is something that we’re going to have to remain focused on to be sure.”

He also emphasized that the US remains committed to Israel’s defense.