Biden administration advances potential $1 billion weapons sale to Israel

The Biden administration informally notified Congress on Tuesday that it is continuing to advance a potential $1 billion weapons sale to Israel through the State Department review process, a U.S. official familiar with the process told NBC News.

If the sale is approved, the weapons transfer wouldn’t happen for several years but it is the latest indication that the administration is continuing its military support for Israel despite ongoing operations in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where more than 1 million people are sheltering.

The potential military sale and the new consultations with Congress were both first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The Biden administration previously warned Israel that if it launched a full-scale invasion of Rafah, the U.S. would not provide certain weapons and artillery shells, citing humanitarian concerns.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a defiant tone on Wednesday, saying that he would press forward and do “what we have to do to win this war.”

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Ben Cardin, D-Md., confirmed to NBC News that Congress is receiving ongoing briefings about the potential sale. 

A congressional aide confirmed the distribution of the potential weapons sale, which includes $700 million in tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar rounds.

The aide noted that these weapons wouldn’t arrive for two years so they would not serve to immediately address the war with Hamas.

“The sales they announced were weapons that won’t be ready for a number of years. So as far as I can tell, they’re still withholding weapons systems from the Israelis,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in frustration at his weekly press conference, adding the announcement “has nothing to do with the current conflict.”

The Biden administration said in a report to Congress last week that it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel has violated international law in Gaza using weapons provided by the United States, but that it hasn’t violated terms of U.S. weapons agreements.

More than 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, since the war began in October.

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