The US has approved the sale of $147.5 million worth of artillery shells to Israel
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The State Department will rush more than 57,000 artillery shells to the Middle East
The US State Department has approved the “emergency” sale of artillery ammunition worth $147.5 million to Israel, bypassing the usual need for congressional review. A larger package of military aid for the Jewish state remains stalled in Congress.
Israel will receive more than 57,000 155mm artillery shells and associated fuses, primers, and charges, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced in a statement on Friday.
While such sales normally require the approval of Congress, it is currently on vacation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on the deal as an “emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the Government of Israel,” the statement read. Blinken used the same justification to authorize the sale of almost 14,000 rounds of 120mm tank ammunition to Israel earlier this month.
The artillery shells will be drawn from US stockpiles. While the statement noted that “there will be no adverse impact on US defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale,” the Pentagon has found its stocks stretched thin in recent months due to the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.
Washington has given Kiev more than 2 million 155mm rounds since February 2022, and as early as January, was rerouting shells from its stockpiles in Israel and South Korea to Ukraine. This reshuffling left Israel under-equipped when the war with Hamas broke out in October, and tens of thousands of shells earmarked for Ukraine were then sent back to Israel to replace those taken ten months earlier.
US President Joe Biden is currently lobbying Congress to pass a $105 billion spending bill that includes $61 billion in military aid to Ukraine and $14.3 billion in military aid to Israel. Democrats have pushed for an even more expensive bill worth $111 billion, but Republicans blocked both texts before Congress went into winter recess two weeks ago.
With many GOP lawmakers expressing reservations about continuing to bankroll Kiev’s military, the party has said that it will not back any bill that doesn’t also include changes to immigration law and significant funding for border security.
The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a standalone bill last month that would have given Israel $14.5 billion in military aid, but the bill was ignored by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Israel has been waging war against Hamas ever since the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attack on the Jewish state on October 7, killing around 1,200 people. After three weeks of striking Gaza from the air, Israeli tanks and troops moved into the strip, where they have surrounded Gaza City in the north and launched probing offensives into settlements and refugee camps in the center and south of the enclave. Nearly 22,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 56,000 wounded since October 7, according to the latest figures from the Gaza Health Ministry.
While the Defense Security Cooperation Agency stated that Israel must “employ munitions consistent with international humanitarian law,” American officials have not attached any specific conditions to their aid packages to West Jerusalem thus far. Biden has called on several occasions for Israel to show restraint in its bombing of Gaza, but has refused to endorse calls for a ceasefire.