The US State Department approved the sale of 13,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel, bypassing Congress in its review process that is required for arms sales to foreign nations, The New York Times reported, citing a State Department official.
The State Department informed the congressional committees on Friday that they were going ahead with the sale, worth more than USD 106 million, even though Congress did not finish an informal review of a bigger order from Israel.
Moreover, the department invoked an emergency provision in the Arms Export Control Act, according to a State Department official and a congressional official.
Adding that the ammunition shipment has been put on an expedited track, they further said that Congress has no power to stop it, The New York Times reported.
Posting an update on the sale, the US Defence Department stated that US State Secretary Antony Blinken had informed Congress on Friday that “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale.”
In a first such move, the US invoked the emergency provision for an arms shipment to the Middle East since May 2019, when State Secretary Mike Pompeo approved weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which was criticised by lawmakers and some of the career officials in the department.
Additionally, the department has used the emergency provision at least twice since 2022 to push arms to Ukraine for its defence against Russia’s invasion, The New York Times reported.
Reportedly, there has been widespread condemnation in the US and other nations for the way Israel is carrying out its counter-offensive.
Israel launched an offensive on Hamas in Gaza after the coordinated terror attacks of October 7, which left at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, dead while another 240 were taken hostage, according to authorities.
According to The New York Times, the arms sale is likely to be met with consternation by Arab leaders, who have sharply criticised the Biden administration’s efforts to block international attempts, including in the US, to pressure Israel for an immediate long-term cease-fire.
The congressional officials claimed that the 13,000 rounds are one tranche of a larger order from Israel of 45,000 rounds of ammunition for Merkava tanks that the State Department aims to approve but is under informal review by two congressional committees that have oversight of arms sales.
Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat of Maryland, said in a statement, “Congressional review is a critical step for examining any large arms sale. The administration’s decision to short-circuit what is already a quick time frame for congressional review undermines transparency and weakens accountability. The public deserves better”
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