Monday, July 22, 2024

US to resume sending 500lb bombs to Israel while withholding 2,000lb bombs, official says

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The Biden administration will resume shipping 500lb bombs to Israel but will continue to hold back on supplying 2,000lb bombs over concerns about their use in densely populated Gaza, according to a a US official.

The US in May paused a shipment of 2,000lb and 500lb bombs due to concern over the impact they could have in Gaza during the war that began with Hamas’ deadly 7 October cross-border raid.

The administration’s particular concern had been use of such large bombs in Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians had taken refuge.

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

One 2,000lb bomb can rip through thick concrete and metal, creating a wide blast radius.

The US official said the 500lb bombs were put together in the same shipment with the larger ones that were paused and therefore got held up.

“Our main concern had been and remains the potential use of 2,000lb bombs in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza … Because our concern was not about the 500lb bombs, those are moving forward as part of the usual process,” the official added.

The US has notified Israel that it is releasing the 500lb bombs but keeping the hold on the larger ones, a person familiar with the matter said.

In June, Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Washington was withholding weapons and pleaded with US officials to remedy the situation. Biden’s aides expressed disappointment and confusion over the Israeli leader’s remarks.

During his visit to Washington, the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said there had been significant progress on the issue of US munitions supply to Israel, adding: “Obstacles were removed and bottlenecks were addressed.”

Despite the pause on one shipment, Israel has continued to receive steady flow of US weaponry.

Reuters reported last month that between the start of Gaza war last October and the end of June, the US has transferred at least 14,000 of the MK-84 2,000lb bombs, 6,500 500lb bombs, 3,000 Hellfire precision-guided air-to-ground missiles, 1,000 bunker-buster bombs, 2,600 air-dropped small-diameter bombs, and other munitions.

International scrutiny of Israel’s military operation in Gaza has intensified as the Palestinian death toll from the war has exceeded 38,000, according to the Gaza health ministry, and has left the coastal enclave in ruins.

The latest bloodshed in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict began on 7 October when Palestinian Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, and took 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

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