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US prepares a new arms shipment to Israel worth more than $1 billion

The weapons, which will include ammunition for tanks, mortars and vehicles, comes after the White House paused the delivery of thousands of bombs a week ago

Manifestacion propalestina ante la Casa Blanca
A pro-Palestinian demonstration in front of the White House, on May 2.Craig Hudson (REUTERS)
Macarena Vidal Liy

The Joe Biden administration has informally notified Congress that it will send Israel a new shipment of weapons worth more than $1 billion. The move comes just a week after it confirmed that it had paused a shipment of thousands of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs due to the possibility that they could be used to attack the city of Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, and cause more civilian deaths. The new shipment includes ammunition for tanks, mortars and military vehicles.

The confirmation of the shipment — advanced by The Wall Street Journal comes as Republicans prepare to present a bill in the House of Representatives that would force President Biden to guarantee the supply of weapons to Israel. The White House is trying to stop House Democrats from supporting the measure, titled the Israel Security Assistance Support Act, which calls on the Biden administration “to utilize all congressionally appropriated funds for security assistance for Israel as Congress intended.”

The White House’s announcement last week that it had paused a shipment of bombs was met with fierce criticism among Republicans, who are trying to present themselves as the party that most supports Israel ahead of the November election, when many pro-Israel voters will cast their ballot. Democrats, and the party’s powerful pro-Israel donors, also criticized the move, especially after Biden told CNN that he would stop sending weapons if Israel launched a “major” operation against Rafah.

On Monday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a press conference that the United States had paused a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs because Washington believes that they should not be “dropped in densely populated cities.” Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border, is home to more than a million Palestinians, most of whom have been displaced from other areas of the Gaza Strip. The senior official clarified that the Biden government would continue to provide military assistance as part of the $100 billion foreign aid package approved last month, to help Israel, Ukraine and other U.S. allies.

The State Department announced the new shipment to the congressional committees as a prior step to formal notification to the Capitol, within the established procedure for this type of operation.

Biden and his administration have warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against attacking Rafah, the last city in Gaza that Israeli forces have not fully invaded, without putting in place measures to protect civilians and guarantee the supply of humanitarian aid to a population which is already on the brink of famine. The border town plays a key role in the distribution of aid that enters the border crossing with Egypt, which Israeli troops have closed since taking control of the area last week.

“Incredibly high cost to civilians”

The U.S. government fears that the Israeli operation in Rafah will cause a huge number of civilian deaths in a war that has already killed more than 35,000 Palestinians and injured more than 70,000. It believes a ground offensive in Rafah will not help achieve the Netanyahu government’s goal of eradicating Hamas. Last Sunday, in an interview with the CBS television network, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Israeli offensive in Rafah would come at “an incredibly high cost to civilians,” while failing to clear the city of the terrorists. “A lot of armed Hamas will be left no matter what they do in Rafah,” he said.

On Wednesday, from Kyiv, Blinken also urged Israel to develop a plan for the future of Gaza after the war. “We do not support and will not support an Israeli Occupation. We also, of course, do not support Hamas governance in Gaza […] We’ve seen where that’s led all too many times for the people of Gaza and for Israel. And we also can’t have anarchy and a vacuum that’s likely to be filled by chaos,” he said at a press conference.

The new shipment of weapons to Israel has sparked criticism among Democratic lawmakers, who are demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire and guarantees that the weapons will be used in accordance with international humanitarian law. Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen said Washington “should not be proceeding with any additional offensive arms transfers until the United States receives clear assurances from the Netanyahu government that the president’s concerns regarding Rafah have been addressed and his demands for the delivery of humanitarian assistance have been met.”

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