Exclusive-Biden administration asks Congress to approve sale of Israeli tank rounds By Reuters

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© Reuters. An Israeli soldier looks on from a Merkava tank while operating in a location given as Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout picture released on December 7, 2023. Israel Defense Forces/Han

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration has asked Congress to approve the sale of 45,000 shells for Israel’s Merkava tanks for use in its offensive against Hamas in Gaza, according to a U.S. official and a former U.S. official.

The request is being made even as concerns grow about the use of U.S. weapons in a war that has killed thousands of civilians in the Palestinian enclave since Israel responded to an attack on Oct. 7 by Hamas militants.

The potential sale, worth more than $500 million, is not part of President Joe Biden’s $110.5 billion supplemental request that includes funding for Ukraine and Israel. It is under informal review by the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, which allows members the privilege to stall the sale, or have informal discussions with the administration about concerns.

But the U.S. State Department is pushing the congressional committees to quickly approve the transaction, said a U.S. official and Josh Paul, a former State Department spokesperson, amid objections from rights advocates over the use of U.S.-made weapons in the conflict.

“This went to committees earlier this week and they are supposed to have 20 days to review Israel cases. State (Department) is pushing them to clear now,” Paul told Reuters.

A State Department spokesperson said as a matter of policy, “we do not confirm or comment on proposed defense transfers or sales until they have been formally notified to Congress.”

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