Middle East

US State Department asks Congress to approve sales of tank munitions to Israel

By Natasha Bertrand, CNN

CNN  — 

The US State Department has asked Congress to approve a sale of tens of thousands of munitions for Israeli tanks, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN.

The request, which the source said was received within the last week and is being reviewed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is for 45,000 shells for Israeli Merkava tanks, the source said. The source added that the committees are under “pressure” from the State Department to approve the request quickly amid Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The request comes as the US is under growing domestic and international pressure to support a ceasefire in Gaza, and place conditions on some of the weapons it is providing to Israel.

“As a matter of policy, we do not confirm or comment on proposed defense transfers or sales until they have been formally notified to Congress,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN when asked about the request.

Reuters first reported the request.

In early November, the State Department formally notified congressional leaders that it would be transferring $320 million worth of precision-guided bomb equipment to Israel, CNN previously reported.

Israel has received 200 cargo planes of military equipment from “several countries” since the Hamas terror attack on October 7, including ammunition, armored vehicles, and weapons, according to the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

The Israeli ministry said more than 10,000 tons of military equipment have been delivered since the start of the war.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense said the aid had come from “several countries,” but declined to say what other countries had sent aid or how much of it had come from the United States.

The shipments of US military aid began soon after the war began. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in Israel on October 13 as a C-17 cargo plane landed with security assistance to Israel.

“There’s a lot more that follows this,” Austin said at the time.

Unlike security assistance to Ukraine where the US details types of weapons and capabilities, the shipments to Israel have been far more discrete, with the Defense Department rarely acknowledging or announcing what types of weapons or equipment it is sending.

In late-October, a senior defense official said the US was expediting the delivery of precision-guided joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) to Israel, which turn unguided bombs into smart weapons. The US has also expedited the delivery of Iron Dome interceptor missiles for Israel’s primary aerial defense system.

The use of US weapons in Israel’s ongoing war has drawn increased scrutiny following an Amnesty International report this week which claimed that US-made JDAMs were used in two strikes in October which killed 43 civilians. The human rights organization said it “did not find any indication that there were any military objectives at the sites,” a conclusion the Israeli military rejected as “flawed, biased and premature.”

The US State Department and the Defense Department both said they are reviewing Amnesty International’s report.

“We have made clear in our discussions with Israeli leaders that we are deeply concerned about the protection of civilians in this conflict,” State Department spokesman Matt Miller said Wednesday. “We expect Israel to only target legitimate targets and to adhere to the laws of armed conflict.”

CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed reporting.

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