US okays transfer to Israel of 2,300 bombs within months, 25 F-35s in years – report

Washington Post says weaponry to be provided amid growing US concerns over Gaza campaign and plans for Rafah offensive

US-supplied military equipment arriving in Israel, December 2023. (Ministry of Defense Spokesperson's Office)
US-supplied military equipment arriving in Israel, December 2023. (Ministry of Defense Spokesperson's Office)

The United States in recent days authorized the transfer of billions of dollars worth of bombs and fighter jets to Israel even as it publicly expresses concerns about an anticipated military offensive in Rafah, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Citing Pentagon and State Department officials, the daily said the new arms package includes 1,800 MK-84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK-82 500-pound bombs, along with 25 F-35s that were initially approved as part of a larger package by Congress in 2008. Israel requested the third squadron of 25 F-35s last July, which when delivered will bring the total size of the fleet to 75.

The bombs are expected to be delivered within the coming months, as part of a constant stream of armaments and military equipment that the US has provided Israel with since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip.

The additional fighter jets will take several more years. Only 36 of Israel’s original order of 50 F-35s have so far been delivered.

Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to Israel, its longtime ally. The US has been rushing air defenses and munitions to Israel as it fights against Hamas in Gaza, but some Democrats and Arab American groups have criticized the Biden administration’s steadfast support of Israel, and called for leveraging military aid.

“We have continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” a White House official told The Washington Post. “Conditioning aid has not been our policy.”

The US recently deemed Israel to be in compliance with a new national security memorandum after it received a written assurance from Jerusalem that it is using American weapons in line with international law and is not blocking humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

This assurance came last week via a “credible high-level official who has the ability and authority to make decisions and commitments about the issues at the heart of the assurances,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Monday, referring to the letter sent by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

“These assurances are prospective, but of course, our view of them is informed by our ongoing assessments of Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza,” Miller said during a press briefing.

“We’ve had ongoing assessments of Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law. We have not found them to be in violation, either when it comes to the conduct of the war or the provision of humanitarian assistance. We view those assurances through that ongoing work we have done,” he said.

The State Department has until May 8 to provide Congress with a report on Israel’s compliance with the memo.

The announcement came on the same day that the US abstained from a vote at the United Nations Security Council calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of the hostages taken on October 7, without linking the two issues. The resolution, backed by Russia and China, passed with 14 votes.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, left, speaks during a UN Security Council vote on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The vote sparked a spat with Israel, which argued that its passage would make Hamas more obstinate in truce talks in Qatar. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also canceled a planned trip to Washington by his top aides to discuss plans for an offensive in the Gaza city of Rafah. Jerusalem has since agreed to reschedule that meeting.

The United States’ top general said on Thursday that Israel had not received every weapon it has asked for, in part because some of it could affect the US military’s readiness and there were capacity limitations.

“Although we’ve been supporting them with capability, they’ve not received everything they’ve asked for,” said Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Some of that is because they’ve asked for stuff that we either don’t have the capacity to provide or not willing to provide, not right now,” Brown added, while speaking at an event hosted by the Defense Writers Group.

A spokesperson for Brown later on Thursday said his comments were in reference to “a standard practice before providing military aid to any of our allies and partners.”

Tensions have been escalating over Israel’s plans for a large-scale ground operation in the southern Gaza city, which is both Hamas’s last major stronghold in the Strip and where over a million Gazans displaced by the fighting are now located.

Washington and Jerusalem have also disagreed on the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, with Israel blaming the ailing humanitarian situation on aid agencies’ failure to distribute supplies, and on Hamas and armed groups who have looted trucks entering the Gaza Strip.

The White House has shown increasing willingness in recent months to voice dissatisfaction with Israel over civilian casualties in Gaza and the humanitarian situation there, including adopting a harsher tone.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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