Biden approves $735M arms sale to Israel as calls for ceasefire grow
The Biden administration approved the sale of $735 million worth of precision weapons to Israel prior to the start of the most recent conflict between the Jewish state and Hamas, according to multiple reports.
Congress was officially notified of the sale on May 5, according to the Washington Post. Lawmakers have until May 20 to object to the sale, though they can only do so through a non-binding resolution of disapproval.
The Washington Post reported that most of the weapons involved in the sale are so-called Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are used to convert unguided bombs dropped from airplanes into guided weapons.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas, the worst since 2014, has raged since May 10 despite the best efforts of Egyptian and U.S. officials to broker a ceasefire. The fighting has exposed a generational schism in attitudes toward Israel among congressional Democrats.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), released a statement in response to the sale in which she denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “[f]ar right ethnonationalist [sic],” repeating language she used on the House floor last week.
“It would be appalling for the Biden Administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians,” Omar said.
“If this goes through this will be seen as a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a ceasefire.”
Meanwhile, 28 Senate Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) issued a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire, though that statement did not bear the signatures of either Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
The White House said Monday that Biden had “expressed his support for a ceasefire” during a call with Netanyahu, but added that the president “reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks.”
Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.
For its part, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry claims that at least 212 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, including 61 children and 36 women. Israeli claims that many of those casualties are caused by Hamas rockets falling short of their targets and striking civilian areas inside Gaza.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130 and has released the names of and photos of more than two dozen militant commanders it says were “eliminated.”
Also Monday, the Times of Israel reported that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi told the leaders of Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip that fighting against Hamas “would continue as long as it must.” Earlier in the day, the same outlet quoted a diplomatic source as saying a ceasefire would be reached in no more than two days.
More protests were expected across the region Tuesday in response to a call by Palestinian citizens of Israel for a general strike. The protest has the support of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.
With Post Wires