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US considers over $1bn weapons deal for Israel amid Middle East tensions: Report

April 19, 2024 at 7:27 pm

Tanks, armored vehicles and military machinery belonging to the Israeli army withdraw from the central Gaza Strip, seen from Israel on April 17, 2024. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

The US is considering more than $1 billion in new weapons deals for Israel, including tank ammunition, military vehicles and mortar rounds, amid escalating tensions in the Middle East, according to a report on Friday, Anadolu Agency reports.

The proposed deal by the Biden administration includes transfers of $700 million in 120 mm tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles and less than $100 million in 120 mm mortar rounds, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US officials.

This package, reportedly among the largest to Israel since Hamas’s 7 October attack, which killed 1,200 people, would be in addition to those in a military aid deal currently before Congress, the report stated.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The sale would require approval from the US Congress and could take months or years to be delivered, it said.

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The State Department did not immediately respond to Anadolu’s request for comment.

The US is facing a barrage of criticism for providing military aid to Israel amid reports of Tel Aviv targeting civilians – with more than 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, killed in Gaza, and credible reports of violations of international law and US law, including the blocking of American aid.

The report also came amid heightened tension between Iran and Israel after Tehran launched a drone and missile attack in response to the 1 April attack on its Consulate in Syria, which killed seven Iranian military officers, including two top-ranking commanders.

Last month, half-dozen Democratic senators sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to halt arms sales to Israel because it is currently in violation of a 1961 law that prohibits arms sales to nations that obstruct the delivery of American aid.

“The United States should not provide military assistance to any country that interferes with US humanitarian assistance,” the senators wrote. “Federal law is clear, and, given the urgency of the crisis in Gaza and the repeated refusal of Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu to address US concerns on this issue, immediate action is necessary to secure a change in policy by his government.”

An 8 February memorandum signed by Biden requires countries that receive US military assistance to give Washington “credible and reliable written assurances” that the arms will be used in compliance with “international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.

Israel submitted written assurances to the State Department last month, but human rights groups said those assurances were not credible and urged the government to suspend arms transfers to Israel.

State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, said last month that they “have not found [Israel] to be in violation of international humanitarian law, either when it comes to the conduct of the war or when it comes to the provision of humanitarian assistance.”

READ: Israel carrying out ‘genocide’ in Gaza with Western support, approval: Ex-UN Rapporteur