US approves emergency sale of tank ammunition to Israel amid Gaza war

US President Joe Biden’s administration has circumvented congressional authority over military aid to Israel by granting emergency approval for selling $106.5 million of tank ammunition needed for Tel Aviv’s escalating war on Gaza.

The US State Department confirmed its decision on Saturday, saying it had notified Congress the previous day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded that “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale” of tank shells to Israel. The emergency determination was made in the context of protecting US national security interests, the department added.

Approvals of such arms sales rarely bypass congressional oversight and are ostensibly granted only when the executive branch sees the need to deliver weapons as too urgent to wait for lawmakers to take action. The deal with Israel includes nearly 14,000 high-explosive tank rounds. The M830 high-explosive shells are capable of destroying tanks and other armored targets.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the State Department said in a statement.

“This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives. Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense,” it added.

The emergency approval comes as Biden’s administration struggles to gain congressional approval for $106 billion in supplemental security spending, including $14.3 billion for Israel. The US House passed a bill last month that would grant $14.5 billion in aid for West Jerusalem, but Biden has insisted that funding for Israel and Ukraine be bundled together. Republican lawmakers have held up approval for additional aid to Kiev after previously approving $113 billion in outlays, citing concern that Washington is merely prolonging the conflict with Russia without having a clear strategy for victory.

Some Democrats have suggested that any military aid given to Israel should be made contingent on taking steps to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza. Nearly 18,000 Palestinians have been killed and 1.9 million people have been displaced since the war began in October. The conflict was triggered when Hamas launched surprise attacks on villages in southern Israel on October 7, killing an estimated 1,200 people and taking hundreds of hostages back to Gaza.

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