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Biden Administration Bypasses Congress Again to Approve Emergency Weapons Sale to Israel Amid Escalating Conflict

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Dec 31, 2023

The Biden administration has approved a $1.475 billion emergency sale of artillery projectiles to Israel, bypassing congressional review for the second time in recent months as the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants escalates.

Airstrikes Hit Refugee Camps in Central Gaza

On Friday, Israeli warplanes conducted a series of strikes targeting urban refugee camps in central Gaza, according to Palestinian officials. The strikes hit camps west of Gaza City, including the Nuseirat camp, located about 3 miles from the city center. At least 11 Palestinians were reportedly killed, including 3 children, and over 80 others injured.

The strikes came after Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israeli border towns on Thursday night. No one was injured on the Israeli side, but Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said over 30 rockets had been fired, with 10 intercepted by its Iron Dome defense system.

In a statement, the IDF said its warplanes targeted an underground site used by Hamas to produce rockets as well as four weapon storage sites. However, Palestinian witnesses reported that several homes were damaged or destroyed in the densely populated refugee camps.

This latest escalation comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed the conflict will go on for “many more months.” Over 10,000 tons of military equipment has already been delivered to Israel through 244 US cargo planes and 20 ships since hostilities broke out in October, allowing Israel to sustain its bombing campaign targeting Gaza’s infrastructure and militant sites. Palestinian militants have continued rocket attacks into Israel as well as attempted border infiltrations. Over 250 Palestinians and 10 Israelis have been killed so far.

Biden Administration Skips Congressional Review for Israel Weapons Sale

On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally notified Congress of the proposed sale of 100,000 artillery shells to Israel. However, Blinken said he was bypassing the normal 30-day congressional review process due to the ongoing war, claiming “an emergency exists which requires the immediate sale” of the munitions to “support a U.S. ally.”

This invocation of emergency authority mirrors Blinken’s November decision to sell $725 million in weapons to Israel, including JDAM precision bomb kits. At the time, leading Democrats including Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized the administration for failing to properly consult Congress.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) similarly blasted this latest decision as “deeply troubling” and part of a “pattern…of ignoring Congress” on matters of war and peace. While affirming his support for Israel, Kaine warned that the Israeli government should not have “a blank check from the U.S.” Other congressional Democrats have raised concerns over Israel’s bombing of civilian targets in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Palestinians and human rights advocates have strongly condemned US military support for Israel. The public interest website Common Dreams accused Biden of “fueling the humanitarian crisis and civilian carnage in the besieged Gaza Strip” by supplying advanced US weaponry. Over 15 Democratic lawmakers have also introduced a bill to restrict Israel’s use of US funds to detain Palestinian children.

Escalating Conflict Likely as Netanyahu Asserts Control

Benjamin Netanyahu recently returned for an unprecedented sixth term as Israel’s prime minister, presiding over one of the most right-wing coalitions in Israel’s history. Upon taking office on December 29th, Netanyahu immediately escalated threats against Iran while dismissing the possibility of a diplomatic solution over its nuclear program.

With staunch supporters of Israel’s settlement enterprise in top cabinet posts, Netanyahu is unlikely to curb settlement growth in the occupied West Bank. His coalition allies have also advocated intensified strikes on militant sites in Gaza as well as possible re-occupation. Therefore, the Arab-Israeli conflict appears set to intensify further under Netanyahu’s continued leadership.

Palestinian leaders have reacted with dismay to these developments. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced the suspension of security coordination with Israel in response to the refugee camp strikes. Meanwhile senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya vowed to continue rocket attacks, declaring that “bombs will be met with bombs.” The stage appears set for ongoing violence as long as Netanyahu governs without meaningfully negotiating with Palestinian leaders.

Date Event
October 2023 Escalation begins after Palestinian militants launch sporadic rocket fire and IDF conducts airstrikes
November 2023 Blinken approves $725 million emergency weapons sale to Israel, drawing Congressional criticism
December 29, 2023 Netanyahu returns as Israeli PM, escalating threats against Iran and Palestinians
December 30, 2023 IDF strikes refugee camps in Gaza after rocket fire, killing 11 Palestinians
December 30, 2023 Blinken again skips Congressional review for $1.475 billion Israel artillery sale

With over 250 dead since October, there is no end in sight for the mounting casualties. Unless the Biden administration pressures Israel to show restraint and engage with Palestinian negotiators, further bloodshed appears inevitable. Yet US leaders seem unwilling to exert meaningful leverage over Israel due to strong domestic support for assisting its military campaigns. Therefore the fires of war stoked by Netanyahu’s defiant rhetoric may continue raging in the year ahead.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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