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Times Of Israel
Times Of Israel
17 Feb 2024

NextImg:US readies new weapons shipment to Israel; embassy says no human rights concerns

The Biden administration is preparing to send a new weapons shipment to Israel that would add to its arsenal even as the US seeks to rein in the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip and pushes for a pause in the fighting, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing current and former US officials.

According to the report, the proposed shipment includes around a thousand units of MK-82 bombs, fuses, and Joint Direct Attack Munitions guidance kits, which add precision guidance to bombs.

The package is estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

A US official cited by the newspaper says the proposal is still undergoing internal administration review and could change before being sent to congressional committee chiefs for approval.

A former US official told the Journal that the weaponry would be financed by the billions of dollars of military aid the US regularly sends to Israel.

The report also cited an assessment on the proposal by the US Embassy in Jerusalem, which says the Israeli government is seeking “rapid acquisition of these items for the defense of Israel against continued and emerging regional threats.”

The assessment reportedly finds no human rights concerns about the deal. “Israel takes effective action to prevent gross violations of human rights and to hold security forces responsible that violate those rights,” the document says. “In the past, Israel has been a transparent partner in US investigations into allegations of defense article misuse.”

This picture taken from southern Israel shows an Israeli fighter jet over the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas, on January 12, 2024. (Jack Guez/AFP)

US president Joe Biden for the first time last week set a new policy that requires allies who receive military aid from the US to provide “credible and reliable written assurances” of their adherence to international law including international human rights law. It also requires the State Department and the Department of Defense to issue periodic reports on whether allies are meeting these requirements.

The memorandum announcing the new conditions did not mention specific countries that would be held up to the new standard, but came amid increasing calls in the US to condition aid to Israel due to concerns over its military operations in Gaza.

According to the Journal, the precision-guided bombs in the new shipment would enable Israel to more effectively target the leadership of the terror group Hamas, which is believed to be hiding among the civilian population in Gaza.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas’s military and governing capabilities following its October 7 shock attack on Israel, which saw terrorists kill some 1,200 people, mostly civilians amid brutal atrocities, and take 253 hostage.

Since the beginning of the war in October, the US has provided Israel with approximately 21,000 units of precision guided munition, about half of which have been used, according to the WSJ report.

While the Biden administration has, of late, been more critical of the Israeli campaign in Gaza, the report of the new arms shipment indicates that the US is still highly supportive of Israel’s stated efforts to eradicate Hamas.

Biden has received much internal backlash from the Democratic Party for his support of Israel since the beginning of the war. Many Arab-American voters have vowed not to vote for Biden in the 2024 presidential elections or to stay away from the polls, and activists have mounted a campaign to harangue the president and his staff at public engagements.

A protester calling for a ceasefire in Gaza interrupts US President Joe Biden during an event on the campus of George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia, January 23, 2024 (Alex Brandon/AP)

Democrats are also worried the administration’s backing of Israel in the war could cost them key support for the election among young voters, some of whom may vote for a third party and ultimately give Republican frontrunner Donald Trump an advantage.

On Thursday, the Council of Bishops of the American Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) – one of the oldest and most prominent Black denominations in the US, according to the New York Times – accused Israel of “mass genocide” in the Gaza Strip and urged Washington to pull all support and aid it provides to the country.

The church put out a statement saying that Israel has “trapped 1.6 million desperate Palestinians in the southern Gaza city called Rafah. Most of them are women and children. They have denied them access to food, water, shelter, and health care. After this torture, they plan to murder them.”

Aid has continued to flow to the Gaza Strip, including Rafah, as the war soon enters its fifth month. The city is sheltering over a million people who fled the fighting from north and central Gaza.

Rafah, which sits on the Gaza-Egypt border, is the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the enclave and from which two Israeli hostages were rescued last week.

At least some of the 134 hostages remaining in Gaza are thought to be in the city, where Hamas leadership is also believed to be sheltering.

The US and several of Israel’s Western allies have warned Jerusalem that an offensive in Rafah in the current conditions would be catastrophic. Israel, which has said it will draw up a plan for civilians to evacuate before it enters, believes it cannot effectively curtail Hamas without taking Rafah.

AME urged the Biden administration to “immediately withdraw all funding and other support from Israel,” claiming
it has shown “a willful disregard for the human dignity of Palestinians” for decades.

The Rev. Robert Turner conducts a service at the Vernon American Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

“Since October 7, 2023, in retaliation for the brutal murder of 1,139 Israeli citizens by Hamas, Israel has murdered over 28,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children. The United States is supporting this mass genocide. This must not be allowed to continue.”

The death toll numbers in Gaza are provided by Hamas, and do not differentiate between combatants and civilians. Israel says at least 10,000 of those killed are terror operatives, and asserts it makes considerable effort to avoid harm to civilians while fighting in a complex urban environment.

Israel also accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

Reuters contributed to this report