WASHINGTON — As conflict continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, the Department of Defense has released arms to Israel from a weapons stockpile maintained within the borders of the close U.S. ally, defense officials confirmed Wednesday.
The ammunition sale from the weapons stockpile, established in the 1990s for use by both countries in case of emergency, took place within the past week, following three weeks of battle between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in Gaza.
More than 1,300 people, mostly Palestinian civilians, are thought to have been killed since Israel began launching airstrikes and ground incursions in response to continuous missile fire from Gaza.
Israel can make emergency requests for immediate release of arms from the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel that are contingent upon presidential approval.
But the official, who spoke to Stars and Stripes on the condition of anonymity, downplayed the significance of the sale, saying no emergency supply request had come from Israel.
Instead, the United States elected to supply 120mm mortar shells and 40mm grenades from the stockpile because the arms were approaching the date they would require replacement, he said. Israel regularly buys such ammunition when the United States rotates its stocks, he said, and the United States would meanwhile send new ammunition to refresh the stockpile.
“It was a routine request for ammunition of the kind the Israelis do regularly,” the official said.
Late Wednesday, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a written statement that the decision to supply arms from the stockpile was “strictly a sourcing decision and White House approval was not required.”
The United States is also providing other kinds of ammunition as part of the sale, but officials did not provide details on types or quantities sought, or the value of the transaction.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” Kirby said. “This defense sale is consistent with those objectives.”