US keeps pause on one bomb shipment to Israel while it is under review

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is received by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (not pictured) at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2024. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/ File Photo

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden’s top aides told the visiting Israeli defense chief this week that Washington is maintaining a pause on a shipment of heavy bombs for Israel while the issue is under review, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.

The official, briefing reporters about national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s meeting with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, said the allies remain in discussions about the single shipment of powerful munitions, which was paused by Biden in May over concerns they could cause more Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza.

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Without providing specifics, the official said other U.S. weapons will continue to flow to Israel as it battles Hamas militants in Gaza and faces Lebanese Hezbollah fighters on its northern border, where escalating hostilities have spurred fears of a wider regional conflict.

Wrapping up his visit, Gallant said earlier on Wednesday that there had been significant progress on the issue of U.S. munitions supply to Israel, adding that “obstacles were removed and bottlenecks were addressed.”

Gallant and U.S. officials sought to cool tensions following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent claims that Washington was withholding weapons, prompting Biden’s aides to express disappointment and confusion over the Israeli leader’s remarks

The United States in May paused a shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs due to concern over the impact they could have in densely populated areas in Gaza in the war that began with Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 cross-border raid. But Israel is still due to get billions of dollars worth of other U.S. weaponry.

Israel-Lebanon border

Gallant also discussed with Sullivan “Israel’s commitment to ensuring the safe return of Israeli communities to their homes in the north by changing the security reality in the area,” the Israeli defense chief’s office said.

Gallant on Tuesday met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who said the U.S. was working urgently in pursuit of a diplomatic agreement to calm the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border between Israeli forces and Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters.

An exchange of shelling and missile strikes has led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border, and escalation has sparked fears of an all-out war in the area.