Saturday 22 October 2016

US Restocks Israeli Supply of Grenades, Ammunition

Lalit K Jha/Washington

Shortly after it condemned the shelling of a United Nations-operated school in Gaza that killed at least 20 people and injured 90 others, the United States said that it has restocked Israel's supplies of grenades and mortar rounds.

"The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This defense sale is consistent with those objectives," Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

According to Kirby, on July 20 Pentagon received a letter of request from Israel for a normal Foreign Military Sales delivery of ammunition. The request was process and the deal was signed three days letter.

Kirby said two of the requested munitions were available in the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I), on the ground in Israel, and were therefore delivered to the Israeli Defense Force from the stockpile.

"Both munitions had been in WRSA-I stock for a few years, well before the current crisis. All stocks in WRSA-I, as required by law, are 'in excess to US requirements'. Issuing munitions from the WRSA-I stockpile was strictly a sourcing decision and White House approval was not required," Kirby said.

Earlier in the day, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya'alon on the situation in Gaza.

"Hagel reiterated the United States' support for Israel's security and its right to defend itself. Hagel also expressed the US' continued concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza," Kirby said.

The Defense Secretary stressed the need for a humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.

He reaffirmed the US view that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups, Kirby said.

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives passed a legislation denouncing the use of civilians as human shields by Hamas and other terrorist organisations.

"Hamas' efforts to kill and maim the maximum number of Israeli civilians while using its own population as human shields is a crime — a clear violation of international law," Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said.

"Hamas has shown a callous disregard for the lives and welfare of Palestinians, as illustrated by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri’s encouragement on al-Aqsa TV to Gaza residents to act as human shields. Passage of today's legislation places responsibility for these atrocities squarely where it belongs – with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hamas," Royce said.

The White House said it is extremely concerned that the thousands of internally displaced Palestinians, who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes, are not safe in UN-designated shelters in Gaza.

"We also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza. All of these actions violate the international understanding of the UN's neutrality," White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said.

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