Citing “the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs,” the Biden administration on Friday said it would bypass Congress for the second time this month to approve an immediate arms sale to the key Middle East ally as it continues to wage a genocidal war against Gaza.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken notified lawmakers of the new emergency determination involving the sale of $147.5 million in equipment including fuses, charges, and primers for 155mm artillery shells that Israel has already purchased from the United States.
The unguided explosive rounds — which Israel is using in heavily populated urban areas — have a “kill radius” of about 50 meters, with shrapnel able to inflict lethal wounds on people hundreds of meters away.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to ensure Israel is able to defend itself against the threats it faces,” the State Department explained.
The move follows a similar State Department determination on December 9, which expedited 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), whose troops have killed and maimed more than 80,000 Palestinians — mostly women, children, and elders — during 84 days of near-relentless attacks on Gaza.
Some of the deadliest Israeli attacks of the war have been carried out with U.S. weapons, including an October 31 airstrike with 2,000-pound bombs on the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp. More than 120 civilians were killed.
The State Department also said that “we continue to strongly emphasize to the government of Israel that they must not only comply with international humanitarian law, but also take every feasible step to prevent harm to civilians.”
Critics pushed back against that language, with Ibrahim Zabad, a professor of international relations at St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York, asserting on social media that the State Department’s move to bypass Congress “shows the U.S. administration wholeheartedly supports the mass slaughter of Palestinians, their ethnic cleansing, and the demolition of Gaza.”
British journalist Andy Worthington, known for his work chronicling the cases of Guantánamo Bay detainees, asked: “Do they think not enough Palestinian children are being orphaned or killed in Gaza?”
Eli Clifton, a senior researcher at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, noted Blinken’s lamentation Thursday that 2023 “has been an extraordinarily dangerous year for press around the world.” Blinken’s statement did not mention the scores of journalists killed — sometimes allegedly on purpose — by Israeli troops during the war.
The U.S. already gives Israel almost $4 billion in nearly unconditional military aid each year. Since the October 7 Hamas-led attacks and Israel’s retaliatory onslaught, U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly affirmed his “unwavering” support for Israel. His administration has blocked multiple global cease-fire efforts at the United Nations while seeking an additional $14.3 billion in armed assistance for Israel.
While Biden recently decried Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza, he has refused to acknowledge what many international experts have called Israel’s genocide against the people of the besieged strip. Some activists have dubbed him “Genocide Joe.”
On Friday, South Africa filed a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.
Hundreds of rights groups and a handful of progressives in the U.S. Congress have implored the Biden administration to suspend military aid to Israel, while others including Democratic lawmakers have called for conditions to be placed on such assistance.
Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led a letter urging Biden to boost oversight of how American arms are used against Palestinian civilians. The letter specifically mentions 155mm artillery shells.
“The IDF has previously used these shells to hit populated areas including neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, shelters, and safe zones, causing a staggering number of civilian deaths,” the senators noted.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll published on December 20, less than half of registered U.S. voters support sending military aid to Israel — an approximately 10-point decrease from the previous month.
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