Joe Biden’s administration has decided to skip congressional review of the sale of some 14,000 tank shells to Israel. To that end, Secretary of State Antony Blinken invoked an emergency declaration “in the interests of the national security of the United States” contemplated in the Arms Export Control Act. as the Pentagon explained this Saturday in a press release. Blinken informed Congress that he was making this urgent munitions sale to Israel on the same day that the United States vetoed a U.N. resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.
The Ministry of Defense explains that the acquisition concerns 13,981 M830A1 explosive projectiles of 120 millimeter caliber. The total estimated cost of these cartridges is $106.5 million (around 99 million euros). These munitions are used in Israeli Merkava tanks, deployed as part of its Gaza offensive, which has killed thousands of civilians.
This item is part of a larger order worth more than $500 million (€465 million) which includes 45,000 such projectiles. This request was under consideration by Congress. However, Blinken informed Parliament Friday evening that he was proceeding with the export of the 14,000 projectiles because “there is an emergency that requires an immediate sale.”
“The United States is committed to Israel’s security and it is vital to U.S. national interests to help Israel develop and maintain a strong, operational self-defense capability. The proposed sale is consistent with these objectives,” the Pentagon said in its press release. “Israel will use this enhanced capability as a deterrent against regional threats and to strengthen its national defense,” he adds, also indicating that the munitions come from the army’s inventory and that their shipment will not have “ no negative impact” on the country’s defense. in the USA.
The State Department has used this emergency exception several times in arms sales to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February 2022. The Biden administration had not invoked it for any exports of weapons. arms to the Middle East. The last time this clause was used for an operation in the region was for the shipment of arsenals in 2019 to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, with Donald Trump as president and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. This sale without congressional review drew sharp criticism. It was an $8.1 billion (€7.5 billion) operation and, despite claims of urgency, most of the weapons were not even manufactured.
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Washington has recently reinforced its messages that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law and take all possible measures to minimize civilian casualties. Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, and during his call he emphasized the need to protect the population, including corridors that allow people to travel safely from defined areas of hostilities . He also stressed that much more humanitarian assistance was urgently needed in all areas.
However, the United States imposed its veto on the United Nations (UN) Security Council on Friday to prevent approval of a resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire that would facilitate the delivery of aid emergency. The operation of selling high-power projectiles also contrasts with these calls for respect for international law and a minimum of victims.
Biden has been criticized within his own party for his support of Israel. The urgent purchase of projectiles comes as the nearly $106 billion (€98 billion) aid plan for Ukraine, Israel and other national security issues stalls in Congress. Some Democratic congressmen have talked about conditioning the $14.3 billion in aid to Israel included in the package on concrete steps by the Netanyahu government to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. For the moment, the sale of ammunition does not include these types of conditions.
The Israeli army has intensified its attacks in the Gaza Strip in recent days, targeting hundreds of people daily. The death toll from Israeli attacks exceeds 17,000, although it is difficult to specify this figure. Since December 1, when a week-long ceasefire ended, more than 2,500 Palestinians have died, two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which is controlled by Gaza. Hamas.
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