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US skips congressional review to approve emergency sale of tank shells to Israel

US skips congressional review to approve emergency sale of tank shells to Israel

International Desk

The Biden administration has used an emergency authority to allow the sale of about 14,000 tank shells to Israel without congressional review, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

The State Department on Friday used an Arms Export Control Act emergency declaration for the tank rounds worth $106.5 million for immediate delivery to Israel, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The shells are part of a bigger sale that was first reported by Reuters on Friday that the Biden administration is asking the US Congress to approve. The larger package is worth more than $500 million and includes 45,000 shells for Israel's Merkava tanks, regularly deployed in its offensive in Gaza, which has killed thousands of civilians.

As the war intensified, how and where exactly the US weapons are used in the conflict has come under more scrutiny, even though US officials say there are no plans to put conditions on military aid to Israel or to consider withholding some of it.

Rights advocates expressed concern over the sale, saying it doesn't align with Washington's effort to press Israel to minimise civilian casualties.

A State Department official said on Saturday that Washington continues to be clear with the Israeli government that it must comply with international humanitarian law and take every feasible step to avoid harm to civilians.

The proposed sale conveys US commitment to Israel's security and it will bolster Israel's defensive capabilities, the official said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken determined and provided detailed justification to Congress that the tank shells must immediately be provided to Israel in the national security interests of the United States, according to the Pentagon statement.

The sale will be from US Army inventory and consist of 120mm M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer (MPAT) tank cartridges and related equipment.

"Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defence," the Pentagon said, adding that there will be no adverse impact on US defence readiness as a result of the sale.

Israel's Merkava tanks, which uses 120mm shells, are also linked to incidents that involved the death of journalists.

On Thursday, a Reuters investigation revealed that an Israeli tank crew killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and wounded six reporters by firing two shells in quick succession from Israel while the journalists were filming cross-border shelling.

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