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US resumes sending shipments of 500-pound bombs to Israel

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The US will continue to withhold supply of powerful 2,000-pound bombs over concerns Israeli forces will use them in densely populated areas of Gaza.

The United States has agreed to resume shipping 500-pound bombs to Israel while continuing to hold back supplies of powerful 2,000-pound bombs over concerns that Israeli forces will use the weapons in densely populated areas of Gaza, a US official said.

The US in May paused one shipment of 2,000-pound (900kg) and 500-pound (230kg) bombs due to concern over the impact the weapons could have if used by Israel during its ground invasion of the southern city of Rafah, where more than one million Palestinian civilians had sought shelter.

“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,” a US official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, on Wednesday.

On detonation, a 500-pound bomb can severely harm or kill everything or anyone within a 20-metre (65-foot) blast radius.

A 2,000-pound bomb has a destruction radius of 35 metres (115 feet), according to the Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA), which conducts defence policy research and analysis.

The US official said the consignment of 500-pound bombs was in the same shipment as the 2,000-pound bombs, which had led to the stalled transfer of the smaller bombs to Israel.

“Our main concern had been and remains the potential use of 2,000-pound bombs in Rafah and elsewhere in Gaza,” the official said.

“Because our concern was not about the 500-pound bombs, those are moving forward as part of the usual process,” the official added.

The US has notified Israel that it is releasing the 500-pound bombs but maintaining a hold on the larger ones, a person familiar with the matter said.

Reporting from the NATO summit in Washington DC, Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna said the move will “likely ramp up criticism of the Biden administration for its ongoing support for Israel in its war on Gaza”.

Israel’s steady flow of US weaponry

In June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Washington of withholding weapons and called on US officials to remedy the situation.

The Biden administration denied Netanyahu’s claim and expressed disappointment over his remarks.

During a recent visit to Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said there had been significant progress on the issue of supplies of US munitions to Israel, stating that “obstacles were removed and bottlenecks were addressed”.

Despite the pause placed on the single shipment of 2,000-pound bombs, Israel has continued to receive a steady flow of US weaponry.

Since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza in October and up to the end of June, the US had transferred at least 14,000 of the MK-84 2,000-pound bombs, 6,500 500-pound bombs, 3,000 Hellfire precision-guided air-to-ground missiles, 1,000 bunker-buster bombs, 2,600 air-dropped small-diameter bombs, and other munitions, the Reuters news agency reports.

International scrutiny of Israel’s military operation in Gaza has intensified as the Palestinian death toll from the war has exceeded 38,000, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, and has left the coastal enclave in ruins and its population on the brink of famine amid an outbreak of disease.

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