US approves more bombs and fighter jets for Israel despite Rafah concerns, reports say

Washington has a long-time defence relationship with Israel, providing the country with about $3.8 billion in military assistance annually

An Israeli tank holds a position near the Israel-Gaza border. Reuters
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President Joe Biden's administration has authorised sending thousands of bombs and dozens of fighter jets to Israel, The Washington Post reported on Friday, as the US pressures the country to use restraint ahead of a planned military offensive in southern Gaza.

Pentagon and State Department officials told the newspaper, under condition of anonymity, that the arms package worth billions of dollars includes MK84 2,000-pound (450kg) bombs and MK82 500-pound (225kg) bombs, along with 25 F-35A fighter jets and engines.

Two sources familiar with the development confirmed the report to Reuters.

Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant visited Washington to meet US officials earlier this week and, according to Axios, had planned to request US-made weapons as well as F-35 fighter jets.

The Biden administration has been facing calls from Congress, including members of the President's Democratic Party, to re-examine the military relationship with Israel.

In December, the administration bypassed Congress to send weapons to Israel.

The US has a long-time defence relationship with Israel, providing the country with $3.8 billion in military assistance annually.

The White House and the Pentagon referred The National to the State Department for comment on the Post's report.

A State Department representative told The National on background that the agency could not confirm arms transfers before a formal notification to Congress, which has not yet occurred.

Netanyahu vows to go into Rafah without US support

Netanyahu vows to go into Rafah without US support

The representative also said that any weapons that have been already approved by Congress may sometimes not be authorised for shipment until years later, given what the “decades-long life cycle” of congressional notification.

The Post called the authorisation a “quietly” done move that comes at a time when the Biden administration is urging Israel exercise some restraint in its military operations on Gaza.

Hamas militants attacked Israel in October last year, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities.

More than 32,000 people have been killed in Gaza amid the retaliatory Israeli bombardment, according to officials in the enclave.

Israel says its army will take aim at eliminating Hamas battalions it alleges are in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza that UN officials estimate is hosting 1.4 million people, many of whom have fled other parts of the enclave.

Mr Biden has called entering Rafah without a plan to account for civilians a “red line”.

Dozens of House Democrats earlier this month wrote to Mr Biden saying that an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would breach requirements that military aid be used in accordance with international law.

Updated: March 29, 2024, 9:59 PM