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US plans to send $1bn in new military aid to Israel: Reports

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The Biden administration has told Congress that it plans to send a $1bn package of military aid to Israel, according to media reports, despite the United States’s opposition to a full-scale invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza and concerns about rising civilian deaths.

The US Department of State on Tuesday moved the package into the congressional review process, Reuters news agency reported, citing two unnamed US officials.

The package, which is yet to be approved, includes about $700m for tank ammunition, $500m in tactical vehicles and $60m in mortar rounds, congressional aides told The Associated Press news agency.

The approval request for the transfer of lethal weapons comes a week after President Joe Biden paused a single shipment of bombs because of concerns over Israel’s offensive in Rafah, in the southernmost tip of Gaza, from where the United Nations says close to half a million displaced people have fled.

Reporting from Washington, DC, Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi said the new package “is being presented as the long-term US commitment to supplying Israel with weaponry”.

“We are being told that it is something that has been under consideration since mid-spring. It could take many months, up to three years to supply all of these weapons to Israel,” he said.

“But again, it is a long-term commitment. That’s how it is being presented. This is not necessarily connected to what is happening right now [in Gaza].”

A recent State Department report found that Israeli forces likely used US-supplied weapons in a manner “inconsistent” with international law. However, it stopped short of identifying violations that would put an end to Washington’s ongoing military aid.

Reporting from Deir el-Balah, in central Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said on Wednesday that the Israeli army has intensified its attacks by land and air in Rafah and Jabalia in the north of the territory.

“Over the past couple of hours, we have recorded more victims in central areas of Gaza City. Ten Palestinians have been killed in the city’s Sabra neighbourhood after a UN-run clinic was targeted by Israeli jets,” he said.

Nearly 450,000 people had been forcibly displaced from Rafah since May 6, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said in a statement on Tuesday. Another 100,000 people have evacuated from the north in the face of fierce new attacks.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, at least 35,173 people have been killed and 79,061 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.

Rafah invasion

Biden said last week that he had delayed a shipment of 2,000-pound (907kg) bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs to Israel over concerns they might be used for the invasion of Rafah.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday that the US would continue to provide the military assistance from a $26bn supplemental funding bill passed last month but it paused the bombs because “we do not believe they should be dropped in densely populated cities”.

The chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs committees review major foreign weapons deals.

Biden has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to invade Rafah without safeguards for civilians, seven months into a war that has devastated Gaza.

His support for Israel in the war has emerged as a political liability for the president, particularly among young Democrats, as he runs for re-election this year.

Gershon Baskin, the Middle East Director at the International Communities Organisation, said the US government’s apparent “u-turn” was “probably explainable by the election clock ticking faster for Biden”.

“He was criticised very strongly from friends of Israel, both in the fundamentalist Christian groups and in the Israel support lobbies in Washington, and a significant amount of criticism from the Republican Part probably caused him to rethink his decision to withhold the shipments of bombs to Israel,” he told Al Jazeera.

The Israeli military said in a statement on Tuesday that, in the past day, it hit more than 100 targets in the Gaza Strip and continued to carry out military operations in the eastern part of Rafah city and the area near the Rafah port.

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