Biden administration plans US$1 billion arms shipment to Israel

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15th May 2024 – (Washington) The Biden administration has informed key lawmakers of its intention to send over $1 billion worth of additional arms and ammunition to Israel, according to three congressional aides on Tuesday. The exact timeline for the delivery of these weapons remains unknown.

This announcement comes following the suspension of another arms transfer earlier this month, which consisted of 3,500 bombs weighing up to 2,000 pounds each. The Biden administration halted that particular transfer due to concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza, aiming to prevent the use of these munitions in Israel’s offensive in the densely populated southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The newly disclosed package includes approximately $700 million for tank ammunition, $500 million for tactical vehicles, and $60 million for mortar rounds, as revealed by congressional aides who spoke anonymously. The details of this arms transfer have not been made public.

The timing of the shipment remains uncertain. Two congressional aides clarified that this delivery is separate from the long-delayed foreign aid package recently passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden. It is unclear whether this shipment represents the latest instalment of an existing arms sale or a new arrangement altogether.

The Biden administration has faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans regarding its military support for Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Some Democrats have urged the President to limit the transfer of offensive weapons, emphasising the need to protect Palestinian civilians. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers argue that any reduction in U.S. support weakens Israel in its fight against Hamas and other Iran-backed groups.

Despite the temporary suspension of bomb transfers, the Biden administration has reaffirmed its commitment to providing overall military support to Israel. National security spokesman John Kirby stated that Biden will ensure Israel has the necessary military capabilities to defend itself against all enemies, including Hamas, but certain categories of American weapons should not be used in specific operations or locations.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the plans for the $1 billion weapons package destined for Israel. In response to House Republicans’ proposal of a bill mandating the delivery of offensive weaponry, the White House stated that President Biden would veto the bill if it were to pass Congress.

While the bill faces limited prospects in the Democratic-controlled Senate, House Democrats hold divided opinions on the matter. Approximately two dozen members have signed a letter expressing concern about the suspension of the bomb shipment. Despite the White House’s opposition, some lawmakers, like New York Representative Ritchie Torres, have indicated their support for the bill.