US skips congressional review to approve sale artillery shells to Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has approved the sale to Israel of 155 mm artillery shells and related equipment without congressional review, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Blinken determined that an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to Israel, thereby waiving congressional review requirements, according to the Pentagon. The State Department said that the US is committed to Israel’s security and it is essential to the American national interest to ensure that Israel can defend itself against the threats it faces. Decisions of this type are rare but not unprecedented when governments see an urgent need to supply weapons without waiting for congressional approval.

The sale comes as Israel intensifies its offensive in the Gaza Strip. The US has pressed Israel to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza and has called for it to scale down the war in the coming weeks.

Estimated total value of sale near $148 million

The Pentagon said Israel has requested that fuzes, primers, and charges be included in a previous request for 155mm shells. The estimated total value of the sale is $147.5 million.

The M107 is a 155 mm high explosive projectile used by many countries, with fragmentation and detonation options. It was previously the standard 155 mm high explosive projectile for the US Army and US Marine Corps, but it has been replaced with the M795 in the US military, Maariv reported.

US SECRETARY of State Antony Blinken speaks at a news conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday (credit: SAUL LOEB/REUTERS)

This is the second time this month that the Biden administration has skipped a congressional review of a weapons sale to Israel. 

Certain Democratic members of Congress have proposed making American aid to Israel conditional on concrete steps by the Netanyahu government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.

Bypassing Congress on emergency decisions on arms sales is an unusual step that has previously drawn opposition from lawmakers. The last time this happened was in 2019 when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo approved an emergency arms sale to Saudi Arabia and other countries, which drew heavy criticism, Maariv reported.

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