Home » U.S. to again ship 500-pound bombs to Israel, reversing suspension

U.S. to again ship 500-pound bombs to Israel, reversing suspension

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The United States is resuming a shipment of 500-pound bombs to Israel that had been held up since May, when the Biden administration suspended delivery of two types of large, airdropped weapons amid concerns about the ballooning scale of civilian casualties in Gaza, said U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The paused delivery included 1,800 2,000-pound bombs, which remain on hold, U.S. officials said. But the supply of 1,700 500-pound bombs will move forward.

The U.S. decision followed a pressure campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and pro-Israel lobbyists in the United States, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, demanding the resumption of all weapons shipments regardless of their lethality.

Despite the pressure campaign and initial hold, the U.S. officials said the 500-pound bombs were never a serious concern for the Biden administration.

“Because of how these shipments are put together, other munitions may sometimes be co-mingled. That’s what happened here with the 500-lb bombs, since our main concern had been and remains the potential use of 2,000-lb bombs in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza,” said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive arms deliveries.

While the tempo of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has slowed somewhat, Israeli strikes continue to be associated with mass-casualty events, including a strike Tuesday at a school sheltering displaced Palestinians near Khan Younis that killed at least 25 people and wounded 50 more, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israel said the airstrike targeted Hamas fighters.

The decision to partially lift the pause in U.S. shipments was first reported by Israel’s Channel 12.

The United States originally suspended the provision of large bombs as a “shot across the bow” and a serious indication of U.S. concern about Netanyahu’s planned invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians were sheltering.

President Biden had said a major operation there would cross a “red line,” triggering a suspension of U.S. support. U.S. officials later said Israel’s operations there never crossed the line, including a May 26 incident in which at least 46 Palestinians were killed during an Israeli bombing of the Tal al-Sultan tent camp.

U.S. officials said the offensive in Rafah was carried out with much more precision than Israel’s other operations in Khan Younis and Gaza City. Last week, the Israel Defense Forces brought a large group of journalists to tour parts of Rafah for the first time. Reporters described the city as “decimated” and largely empty.

Janet Abou-Elias, a research fellow at the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based think tank, said the destructive power of 500-pound bombs should not be taken lightly. “In Gaza’s densely populated areas, the difference in the destructive impact between a 500-pound and a 2,000-pound bomb is negligible, both causing immense destruction and civilian casualties,” she said.

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