US to send delayed shipment of 500-pound bombs to Israel

The Biden administration has decided to resume a delayed shipment of 500-pound bombs to Israel, a U.S. official confirmed to the Washington Examiner on Wednesday.

In May, the administration announced it had delayed one shipment of military aid to Israel that consisted of 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs, according to Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman. U.S. officials said they had held up the shipment due to concerns over the damage these bombs could inflict if Israel decided to use them in densely populated areas of Gaza, mainly Rafah.

The 500-pound bombs “are moving forward as part of the usual process,” the official said, while a second U.S. official noted the 2,000-pound bombs “remains paused.”

The larger bombs have been useful in Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas’s underground tunnels.

“We’ve been clear that our concern has been on the end-use of the 2,000-pound bombs, particularly for Israel’s Rafah campaign, which they have announced they are concluding,” the first official said. “Our main concern had been and remains the potential use of 2,000-pound bombs in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza.”

At the time the administration paused this shipment, Israeli leaders had publicly discussed a ground invasion into Rafah, the southernmost city of Gaza, where more than a million people had fled. U.S. and international leaders publicly urged Israel not to carry out the plan, meant to root out Hamas in one of its final strongholds, given their concerns it could result in scores of civilian casualties.

President Joe Biden warned on May 8 that the United States would withhold offensive military aid to Israel if military forces “go into Rafah,” which National Security Council spokesman John Kirby later described as “thousands and thousands of troops moving in a maneuvered, concentrated, coordinated way against a variety of targets on the ground.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told lawmakers in May that the use of the larger bombs could “create a lot of collateral damage” if used in populated areas.

“A small-diameter bomb, which is a precision weapon, it’s very useful in a dense, built-up environment. It is helpful, but maybe not so much a 2,000-pound bomb that could create a lot of collateral damage,” Austin added.

U.S. and Israeli leaders have had several public disagreements over Israel’s conduct in its war against Hamas, though the administration’s military support has largely remained steady despite pushback from Biden’s own party domestically.


Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the U.S. “has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel” and said it had been going on for “months,” though he did not specify what weapons he was referencing.

Netanyahu’s allegations were “perplexing, to say the least,” Kirby said at the time.

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