Biden approves billion-dollar weapons package for Israel amid Gaza carnage

Washington DC - President Joe Biden's administration informed Congress on Tuesday of a $1 billion weapons package for Israel despite previously threatening to withhold some arms if an assault on Rafah takes place.

President Joe Biden informed Congress of a billion-dollar weapons package to be transferred to Israel as it goes ahead with its assault on Rafah in spite of US opposition.
President Joe Biden informed Congress of a billion-dollar weapons package to be transferred to Israel as it goes ahead with its assault on Rafah in spite of US opposition.  © Collage: IMAGO / Xinhua & REUTERS

The administration informally notified the weapons package to Congress, which will need to approve it, a US official told AFP, while a congressional aide who also requested anonymity said the weapons bought from US weapons makers amounted to around $1 billion.

The weapons would come out of a major $95 billion package recently approved by Congress in defense support for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, and the Biden administration has repeatedly said it planned to go ahead and appropriate the funds through purchases from US manufacturers.

But the deal comes a week after Biden warned he may withhold bombs and artillery shells to Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went ahead in defiance of US warnings with an assault on Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million Palestinians have taken shelter after half a year of relentless Israeli attacks.

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The Biden administration also confirmed last week that for the first time it had halted a shipment including 2,000-pound bombs, fearing they would be used with devastating risks for civilians in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza, which has been bombed beyond recognition.

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Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are still sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, which Israel is now targeting through a ground invasion.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are still sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, which Israel is now targeting through a ground invasion.  © AFP

Congress could still block the weapons sale to Israel, with left-leaning members of Biden's Democratic Party outraged by the death toll in Gaza, which has passed 35,000.

But the overall package passed despite opposition from the left, with Republicans almost unanimously in support of arms for Israel.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the new arms package. It said it could potentially include $700 million in tank ammunition and $500 million in tactical vehicles.

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While increasingly critical of Israel in public, Biden has made clear it he will continue his unconditional support of an ally which faces accusations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, despite his own State Department admitting that international humanitarian law has "likely" been violated.

"We are continuing to send military assistance, and we will ensure that Israel receives the full amount provided in the supplemental," Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security advisor, told reporters on Monday.

"We have paused a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs because we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities. We are talking to the Israeli government about this," he said.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / Xinhua & REUTERS

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