The US is trying to get aid to Gaza while also quietly arming Israel: Report

A Palestinian boy looks at abandoned Israeli Army munitions cases following the Israeli offensive in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Friday, March 8, 2024.

On Thursday, during his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden announced a U.S. military operation to deploy a temporary port off the coast of Gaza as part of an international push to open a sea route delivering food and other aid to desperate Palestinian civilians cut off by the Hamas-Israel war and by Israeli restrictions on humanitarian access by land. 

And while Biden touted his commitment to de-escalate the conflict and bring aid to those suffering from the war, a report from the Washington Post on Wednesday – one day before Biden’s address – found that the U.S. had quietly approved and delivered on more than 100 arms sales to Israel since the war first broke out. 

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The report cites various unnamed U.S. officials who recently told Congress in a classified briefing that thousands of precision-grade munitions, small-diameter bombs and other weapons have been sold to the Israeli government since the war began. 

The supposed unreported sale of arms highlights the glaring irony that while the U.S. endeavors to provide humanitarian aid to those in dire need, it does so against the backdrop of weapons transactions to Israel, the very arms that contribute to a war that has left more than 30,000 Palestinian civilians dead, according to Gaza’s health authorities. 

How much has America armed Israel since Oct. 7

According to the Washington Post report, only two foreign military sales to Israel have been made public since the outbreak of the war.

These sales include a $106 million tank ammunition package and a $147.5 million deal of 155 mm shell components in December 2023. 

At that time, the sales were approved when the Biden administration bypassed Congress by invoking an emergency authority to arm Israel. 

"Given the urgency of Israel’s defensive needs, the secretary notified Congress that he had exercised his delegated authority to determine an emergency existed, necessitating the immediate approval of the transfer," the State Department said.

This move landed Biden’s administration in hot water, with many U.S. lawmakers continually hesitant to back Israel’s tactics in their efforts to defeat Hamas. Tactics that Biden has previously called "over the top."

At the time, Bypassing Congress with emergency determinations for arms sales was an unusual step that has, in the past, met resistance from lawmakers, who typically have a period of time to weigh in on proposed weapons transfers and, in some cases, block them.

At least four administrations have used the authority since 1979. President George H.W. Bush’s administration used it during the Gulf War to get arms quickly to Saudi Arabia.

Humanitarian crisis in Gaza

A widening humanitarian crisis across Gaza during five months of war has forced many people to scramble for food to survive. 

In a meeting on the aid delivery crisis with Israel’s ambassador Michael Herzog, the U.S. international development director, Samantha Power, warned that blockaded Gaza "faced a real risk of famine," her office said Thursday. 

Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 30,717 Palestinians have been killed. This includes civilians and combatants, as the ministry does not differentiate between the two. 

In its tallies, women and children make up two-thirds of those killed, according to the ministry. 

Pressure on the Biden administration surged last week after Gaza health officials reported more than 100 people killed at an attempted aid delivery to the isolated north. Israel said its forces fired warning shots when the crowd began moving toward them. Witnesses and medical workers told The Associated Press that most of those injured were shot when Israeli forces fired into the crowds of hungry people. 

Aid groups have said their efforts to deliver desperately needed supplies to Gaza have been hampered because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, the ongoing hostilities, and the breakdown of public order. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.