US partially releases shipment of heavy bombs withheld from Israel — officials

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

IDF vehicles transport a group of soldiers and journalists inside the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2024. (AP Photo/ Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)
IDF vehicles transport a group of soldiers and journalists inside the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2024. (AP Photo/ Ohad Zwigenberg, Pool)

The Biden administration has released about half of the shipment of heavy bombs it has withheld from Israel since May over concerns the IDF would use them in densely populated areas of Gaza, a US official tells The Times of Israel.

In May, the White House announced a decision to withhold a shipment of 1,800 2,000-lb bombs and 1,700 500-lb bombs, with US President Joe Biden threatening to freeze additional offensive weaponry if Israel launched a major military offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah where over one million Palestinians were sheltering at the time.

Israel subsequently tailored its operations to account for the administration’s concerns of mass-civilian casualties, and the sides were on a path to resolve the issue of the withheld shipment, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

But last month, Netanyahu publicly claimed that the US had adopted a broader policy of withholding weapons shipments from Israel, infuriating the Biden administration, and setting back efforts to at least partially release the withheld shipment of heavy bombs, the Israeli official says.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant managed to patch over some of the disagreements during his visit to Washington in late June, the Israeli official adds, pointing to the subsequent US decision to release the 1,700 500-lb bombs.

Netanyahu has claimed that he only went public with the dispute over weapon transfers after months of efforts to solve the issue privately failed.

“We’ve been clear that our concern has been on the end-use of the 2,000-lb bombs, particularly in advance of Israel’s Rafah campaign, which they have announced they are concluding,” the US official says.

“Because of how these shipments are put together, other munitions may sometimes be co-mingled. That’s what happened here with the 500-lb bombs.”

“Since our main concern had been and remains the potential use of 2,000 lb bombs in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza, the 500-lb bombs are moving forward as part of the usual process,” the US official adds.

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