US approves artillery munition sales worth US$147.5 million

The United States yesterday announced the approval of a US$147.5 million (RM677 million) sale of 155mm high-explosive artillery munitions and related equipment to Israel under an emergency provision that waives the usual congressional review.

The same provision was used earlier this month to approve the sale of nearly 14,000 rounds of 120mm tank ammunition to Israel, which is battling Hamas in Gaza in a highly destructive conflict that began with a shock attack by the Palestinian militants in October, reported AP.

Israel requested that 155mm fuses, primers and charges be added to previous foreign military sale cases, increasing their estimated total cost from US$96.51 million to US$147.5 million and requiring a new notification, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.

The secretary of state has determined that “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the government of Israel” of the weaponry, thereby waiving the normal requirement for review by Congress, according to the statement, which said the munitions will come from US Army stocks.

“Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence,” the statement said, adding: “It is incumbent on all countries to employ munitions consistent with international humanitarian law.”

The latest round of the Israel-Hamas conflict began when the Palestinian militant group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza on October 7 that killed about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Following the attack, the United States rushed military aid to Israel, which has carried out a relentless campaign in Gaza that has killed at least 21,507 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.

The civilian deaths and the destruction in Gaza from the Israeli campaign has caused a growing international outcry, and the United States’ international image has taken a beating over its continued backing for Israel.