The U.S. State Department has approved the emergency sale of 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition to Israel for about $106.5 million, the Biden administration said Saturday.
The State Department said it had notified Congress of the sale late Friday after Secretary of State Antony Blinken determined "an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale" of the munitions in the U.S. national security interest.
The purchase will bypass congressional review, which is usually a requirement for foreign military sales. The action is rare, though not unheard of, when administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for lawmakers' approval. At least four administrations have used the authority since 1979, according to The Associated Press.
"The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives," a statement issued by the State Department said. The ammunition would come from U.S. inventory.
The sale will be from U.S. Army inventory and consist of 120mm M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer (MPAT) tank cartridges and related equipment, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The move comes as President Joe Biden's request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security is languishing in Congress, caught up in a debate over U.S. immigration policy and border security.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his appreciation on Saturday for the United States' veto at the U.N. Security Council, blocking a demand for a cease-fire in Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.
"Other countries must also understand that it's impossible to support the elimination of Hamas on one side, and on the other to call for the end of the war, which will prevent the elimination of Hamas," Netanyahu said. "Therefore, Israel will continue our just war to eliminate Hamas and achieve the war's other objectives that we set."
Israel also said Saturday it was expanding its military operations in the southern Gaza Strip.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said Israeli forces had killed at least 7,000 Hamas militants so far, without saying how that estimate was reached.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Saturday for the United Nations Security Council to be reformed, decrying the fact that the United States could veto a cease-fire proposal for Gaza despite huge support from other countries.
"The United Nations Security Council demand for cease-fire is rejected only by U.S. veto. Is this justice?" Erdogan asked at a human rights conference in Istanbul.
Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of the international rights advocacy group Amnesty International, also disagreed with the U.S. veto, calling it "morally indefensible and a dereliction of the U.S. duty to prevent atrocity crimes and uphold international law."
The U.S. reasoning against a cease-fire is that it would allow Hamas, a U.S. – designated terrorist group, to regroup and carry out fresh incursions. Washington instead supports pauses in fighting to protect civilians and allow the release of hostages taken by the militants during the October 7 terror attack on Israel.
Israel ordered residents Saturday to evacuate the center of Gaza's main southern city Khan Younis, while the dead and wounded are piling up at the overwhelmed Nasser hospital there.
So far, the majority of Gaza's 2.3 million residents already have been forced from their homes, many fleeing several times. With fighting raging across the length of the territory, residents and U.N. agencies say there is effectively nowhere safe to go now. Israel disputes this.
The World Health Organization's executive board is scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss the health situation in Gaza.
More than a dozen WHO member states already have expressed "grave concern" about the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the enclave. Gaza residents "are being told to move like human pinballs, ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday. "The people of Gaza are looking into the abyss. The international community must do everything possible to end their ordeal."
The Middle East has been a tinderbox since Iranian-backed Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,200 people while taking about 240 people hostage, Israel said. Israel's retaliatory strikes and ground offensive have killed more than 17,700 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
Thousands more are missing and presumed buried under rubble. Seventy percent of the victims are women and children, according to the health ministry.
VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this story. Some information for this article was provided by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.