An Israeli security guard watches over the Kerem Shalom border crossing in March.

An Israeli security guard watches over the Kerem Shalom border crossing in March. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

Public scrutiny over military aid to Israel has mounted in the wake of its war in Gaza following Hamas’s deadly Oct. 7 attack and amid concerns over the rising civilian death toll.

A handful of countries have provided Israel with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weaponry and military equipment since October, although the details of many transfers remain shrouded in secrecy. The United States and Germany - which supply the vast majority of Israel’s imported arms - say the transfers are essential to support Israel’s security.

This month, the International Court of Justice began hearing a legal challenge over German arms exports to Israel, while the 47-member U.N. human rights council passed a nonbinding resolution calling for the end of the “sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment” to Israel. Here’s what to know.

What military aid does the U.S. provide to Israel?

Since World War II, the United States has provided more military aid to Israel than it has to any other country. In recent years, the military aid amounts to more than $3 billion per year.

Most U.S. military aid to Israel falls under the Foreign Military Financing program, which provides grants that Israel uses to purchase U.S. military goods and services. The United States is the Israeli military’s biggest supplier, accounting for 69 percent of its total arms imports between 2019 and 2023, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The U.S. has the stated the aim of enabling Israel to maintain a “qualitative military edge” over its neighbors. Israel views Iran and the militant groups it backs as existential threats, and the U.S. has noted Iran has “repeatedly threatened to destroy” Israel.

The U.S. has also maintained a stockpile of weapons in Israel since the 1990s, with some of the stockpiled shells redirected to Israel’s military following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Since the war began in October, the United States has reiterated that its support of Israel’s security is “ironclad,” and it has continued to back that pledge with more than 100 separate foreign military sales to Israel, including thousands of precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs, bunker busters, small arms and other lethal aid.

The details of many of the military exports are not public, making it unclear how many of the recent transfers represent routine supply, as opposed to an escalation intended to replenish munitions used in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

Washington has announced two major military sales to Israel since the war began: a $106.5 million sale of 14,000 tank ammunition cartridges and equipment, and a $147.5 million sale of 155mm artillery shells and related equipment.

U.S.-made weapons have been used widely in Gaza since Oct. 7, though it is not clear when they were purchased or delivered. In the early weeks following the Hamas assault, the U.S. expedited the delivery of thousands of bombs and artillery to Israel through military airlift as well as authorizing the transfer of weaponry the U.S. holds in storage in Israel, officials familiar with the matter said.

In March, the Biden administration authorized the transfer of 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs to Israel, The Post reported. The 2,000-pound bombs have been linked to previous mass-casualty events throughout Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. On April 1, the same day Israeli airstrikes killed seven World Central Kitchen aid workers, the State Department approved the transfer of more than 1,000 MK82 500-pound bombs, more than 1,000 small-diameter bombs, and fuses for MK80 bombs, all from authorizations granted by Congress several years before the latest hostilities between Israel and Hamas began, said the U.S. officials.

Those arms transfers are not expected to be delivered by 2025 or later, officials said.

What weapons and military equipment does Germany export to Israel?

Germany is the second-biggest supplier to Israel’s military, according to SIPRI. By its estimates, Israel imported some 30 percent of its arms between 2019 and 2023 from German manufacturers. The military commitments reflect the long-standing sense of historical responsibility felt by German leaders toward Israel, who cite Germany’s “responsibility arising from the Holocaust.”

German arms exports to Israel surged tenfold last year compared with 2022, hitting $354 million.

Since October, Berlin says it has approved the sale of about $275 million worth of weapons and military equipment to Israel, according to a presentation by its foreign ministry’s lawyers at the International Court of Justice on Tuesday. The vast majority of that aid - about $218 million - was approved in October, with export approvals dropping sharply in subsequent months.

Germany has argued that about 98 percent of its exports authorized after the war were not for “war weapons,” but rather “other military equipment” - a category that can include items like helmets or communications equipment. However, aid groups and nonprofit investigative organizations have argued that the full data on exports of weapons is incomplete, and that components of weapons may not be officially classified as “war weapons.”

Germany says it has only licensed four “war weapons” for export since October - three were “test or practice equipment” while the fourth was for the transfer of 3,000 portable antitank weapons.

Berlin also approved the export of 500,000 rounds of ammunition in November for machine guns, submachine guns, or other fully automatic or semiautomatic firearms, although it says they are intended for training purposes only.

Which other countries have exported military equipment to Israel, and which have stopped?

Several other countries have also provided military equipment - although some have paused new exports in recent months.

Italy was the third-largest global exporter of arms to Israel between 2019 and 2023, accounting for 0.9 percent of Israel’s imports in the period, according to SIPRI. It announced in late 2023 that it had stopped sending weapons to Israel; but some arms exports continued, with the government later saying it was honoring existing orders on the condition that the weaponry would not be used against civilians.

Britain says its arm exports represent 0.02 percent of Israel’s overall military imports. In 2022, the last full year for which data is available, London exported $53 million worth of military equipment to Israel. Its courts dismissed a legal challenge against its arms sales to Israel - however, hundreds of U.K. legal experts have written to the government, urging it to end weapon exports to the country.

Canada has not approved any arms export permits to Israel since Jan. 8, the country’s foreign ministry said in March, adding that the pause will continue until it can ensure Israel’s “full compliance” with export controls. It said that export permits approved before Jan. 8 would “remain in effect.”

Spain’s foreign ministry said in February that the country has not authorized any arms sales to Israel since the war broke out. However, El Diario newspaper reported that military exports approved before the war had been sent to Israel after Oct. 7.

In the Netherlands, a court in February ordered the government to suspend export of F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel within seven days because of evident risks of serious violations of international humanitarian law, following a lawsuit brought by Oxfam Novib and two other rights groups. The Dutch government is appealing the order in the Supreme Court.

What has Biden said about sending U.S. weapons to Israel?

While President Biden has increasingly used tough rhetoric in speaking about the war, including blunt remarks criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach in Gaza, it has not corresponded with any significant policy shift in his administration’s unyielding support of Israel.

In February, Biden issued a national security memorandum that requires countries receiving U.S. weaponry, including Israel, to provide “credible and reliable written assurances” that it will use U.S. defense material in accordance with international humanitarian and other laws. Israel provided written assurances to the State Department in March, and the State Department is due to share it assessment with Congress by May 8.

After an Israeli strike killed seven aid workers, including a dual-citizen Canadian American, from World Central Kitchen, on April 1, Biden said U.S. policy with respect to Gaza would change if Israel did not do more to protect civilians, aid workers and allow in more humanitarian assistance.

John Hudson, Kate Brady, and Cate Brown contributed to this report.

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