US Restocks Israel with Mortar Shells, Hand Grenades
The United States confirmed Wednesday it had restocked Israel's supplies of ammunition.
The Pentagon confirmed the Israeli military had requested additional ammunition to restock its dwindling supplies on July 20, with the US Defense Department approving the sale just three days later.
"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," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
"This defense sale is consistent with those objectives."
Two of the requested munitions came from a little-known stockpile of ammunition stored by the US military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state. The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel is estimated to be worth $1 billion.
An unnamed defence official told Reuters that Israel has already used the stockpile to refill supplies of grenades and mortar rounds in the past week.
The official said that although the ammunition came from the War Reserves Stock Allies-Israel, the Israelis had not asked to use this store specifically.
“They didn’t ask for it from there but we gave it to them so we could rotate our stocks,” the official said.
And US lawmakers are working on a package of additional military support from Washington to commit $225 million for the Iron Dome missile defense shield.
The decision to provide ammunition to Israel could fuel controversy, coming just as Washington expresses growing concern about the deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians, many of them civilians, since the IDF operation began on July 8.
Kirby said Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told his Israeli counterpart that the United States was concerned about the deadly consequences of the spiraling conflict, including a "worsening humanitarian situation" in Gaza, and called for a ceasefire and end to hostilities.
He also renewed calls for the disarmament of Gaza's Hamas rulers and "all terrorist groups."
Israel notes that Hamas uses its civilians as human shields, making it impossible for Israel to defend itself without hitting them. It also points to conclusive evidence that Hamas fires at Israel from civilian population centers, and that it uses UNRWA facilities for storing rockets. Three IDF soldiers were killed Tuesday in an UNRWA clinic that had been boobytrapped.
Both the White House and the State Department condemned the shelling of a UN-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which at least 16 Palestinians were killed, neither would assign blame to staunch US ally Israel.
"Obviously nothing justifies the killing of innocent civilians seeking shelter in a UN facility," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf acknowledged, in some of the toughest US comments since the start of the 23-day fighting in the Gaza Strip.
"Innocent Palestinians seeking refuge in these schools should not have shells dropped on them, should not come under attack."
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA claimed Israeli forces had hit the school, which had been sheltering some 3,300 Gazans.
But despite heated exchanges with reporters, Harf stressed that "we don't know for certain who shelled this school, we need to get all the facts."
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also condemned "those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza" and warned of rising fears that thousands of Palestinians who have been told by Israel to leave their homes increasingly had nowhere to go in the blockaded coastal strip.