US sending Israel $1 billion in military aid, Biden administration tells Congress

First major deal since American president said he would stymie sales of offensive weapons includes ammunition for tanks, mortar rounds and tactical vehicles

Backdropped by smoke rising to the sky after an explosion in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli tank stands near the Israel-Gaza border as seen from southern Israel, Monday, May 13, 2024. (AP/Leo Correa)
Backdropped by smoke rising to the sky after an explosion in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli tank stands near the Israel-Gaza border as seen from southern Israel, Monday, May 13, 2024. (AP/Leo Correa)

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has told key lawmakers it is sending a new package of more than $1 billion in arms and ammunition to Israel, three congressional aides said Tuesday.

It’s the first arms shipment to Israel to be announced by the administration since it put another arms transfer — consisting of 3,500 high-payload bombs — on hold earlier in the month. The administration has said it paused that earlier transfer to keep Israel from using the bombs in its growing offensive in the crowded southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The congressional aides spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an arms transfer that has not yet been made public.

The package being sent includes about $700 million for tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar rounds, the aides said.

There was no immediate indication of when the arms would be sent. Israel is now seven months into its war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the plans to move the package.

House Republicans were planning this week to advance a bill to mandate the delivery of offensive weaponry for Israel. The bid followed Biden’s announcement last week that he had paused bomb shipments, and could block future arms transfers if Israel’s military invades populated parts of Rafah in southern Gaza.

President Joe Biden speaks at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies’ 30th annual gala, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

The White House said Tuesday that Biden would veto the bill if it were to pass Congress. The bill also has practically no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But House Democrats are somewhat divided on the issue, and roughly two dozen have signed onto a letter to the Biden administration saying they were “deeply concerned about the message” sent by pausing the bomb shipment.

In addition to the written veto threat, the White House has been in touch with various lawmakers and congressional aides about the legislation, according to an administration official.

“We strongly, strongly oppose attempts to constrain the President’s ability to deploy US security assistance consistent with US foreign policy and national security objectives,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this week, adding that the administration plans to spend “every last cent” appropriated by Congress in the national security supplemental package that was signed into law by Biden last month.

Palestinians at the site of a destroyed building from an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 5, 2024 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday that the US would continue to provide the military assistance provided in a $26 billion supplemental funding bill passed last month, but the White House paused the bombs because “we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities.”

Congressional rules grant the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs committees to review major foreign weapons deals.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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