The United States has begun delivering critical munitions and military equipment to Israel, the White House said Monday, as the Pentagon reviews its inventories to see what else it can do quickly. sent to strengthen its ally in war. with Hamas.
John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, confirmed on Monday evening that the first batch of military aid following the violent attack by Hamas militants is “on its way” to Israel.
The dispatch came as President Joe Biden prepared to make formal statements about the attacks from the White House on Tuesday afternoon, after confirming that at least 11 Americans had died in the violence over the weekend.
“We fully expect that there will be more requests for security assistance for Israel as they continue to expend ammunition in this fight,” Kirby said. “We’ll stay by your side, making sure we meet your needs as best we can and as quickly as we can.”
Also on Monday, a senior Defense Department official warned that the United States is closely monitoring Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups, and noted that the decision to move American ships to the region to prevent any of these groups from entering or expanding the conflict. against Israel. The official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive shipments.
The official said the United States is “flooding the area” with calls and other messages to inform extremist groups and other countries not to question the United States’ commitment to support Israel’s defense. The official, however, declined to comment on whether US military forces would be used, and Kirby later emphasized that “there is no intention of putting American boots on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Kirby said US officials have yet to identify a direct link to the Hamas militants who carried out this week’s deadly attacks in Iran itself, despite the country’s “degree of complicity” considering its high support in the group.
Although the Pentagon official said that the US has the ability to supply weapons to Ukraine and Israel and keep America safe, the rapid delivery of ammunition in the new war raises concerns.
Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said Congress must approve additional funding quickly so the US can provide Israel and Ukraine with the weapons and ammunition they need now.
“The purpose is to support Israel,” he said. “But especially with munitions and the ability to support Israel and Ukraine simultaneously, additional funding is needed to increase our ability to scale up production and then also pay for the munitions themselves.”
At the White House, officials are more cautious, stressing that the US government has funds to support Israel for now. But it’s increasingly clear that the administration now faces potentially competing requests from Israel and Ukraine for more weapons.
“If we have to — and this is an ‘if,’ but — if we have to go back to Capitol Hill to get more financial support for Israel, we absolutely will,” Kirby said. Referring to Israel and Ukraine, he added: “We are a big enough, economically viable and strong country to support both.”
On Capitol Hill, Republican and Democratic lawmakers expressed support for Israel, although immediate congressional action is nearly impossible because the House remains without a speaker and the Senate is not in Washington until next week. It is also uncertain whether the debate over more aid to Ukraine, opposed by a group of right-wing Republicans, will complicate efforts to approve aid to Israel.
Wormuth, speaking at the annual conference of the Association of the United States Army in Washington, said the administration is still “in the initial stages of the process of evaluating our ability to support the needs of the IDF,” referring to Israel Defense Forces. He did not provide details, but Doug Bush, the Army’s undersecretary for acquisition, told reporters at the conference that talks were continuing about what the United States could offer. He said it was likely a wide range of equipment, from small arms to sophisticated ammunition.
Most of the weapons that have already been sent to help Ukraine are coming from the Army’s stockpiles and defense contractors at a pace that is straining the global supply chain, and even though the Army has recently increased production of some critical lines, such as 155 mm howitzer ammunition, no. but at full capacity.
With a new ground offensive in Gaza looming after Saturday’s surprise attack by Hamas, Army officials said Monday they are concerned about the ability to meet increased demand for ground munitions and that Congress should act quickly to provide timely assistance.
In addition to the 11 US citizens whose deaths were confirmed by Biden, an unknown number remain missing. It has not been determined whether the missing persons are dead, in hiding or held hostage.
Biden said the United States believes it is likely that American citizens are among the hostages of Hamas, but authorities are working to confirm this.
“I have directed my team to work with their Israeli counterparts on all aspects of the hostage crisis, including sharing information and deploying experts from across the United States government to consult and advise their Israeli counterparts on these issues.” said in a statement.
To highlight America’s solidarity with Israel, the White House was illuminated in the blue and white colors of the Israeli flag on Monday night.
The attack by Hamas and the retaliation by Israel left more than 1,600 dead and thousands wounded on both sides.
After the Hamas attack, the White House asked Senate leaders to speed up the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next ambassador to Israel, the former Obama-era Treasury secretary and House chief of staff. . Blanca, Jack Lew, according to a US official who was not authorized to comment publicly and asked not to be identified. The White House has received assurances that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will push forward with hearings for Lew, the official added. The United States has been without an ambassador since Ambassador Tom Nides left in July.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday that he ordered the Ford aircraft carrier strike group to sail to the eastern Mediterranean to prepare to help Israel. The USS Gerald R. Ford, the Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, and its approximately 5,000 sailors and deck of warplanes will be joined by cruisers and destroyers in a display of strength intended to be ready to respond to anything, from the possible interception of additional weapons so that they do not reach Hamas to carry out surveillance tasks.
The senior Defense Department official said that concerns about Hezbollah opening a second front of violence against Israel was the main reason for moving the ships to the eastern Mediterranean. The official said that the United States is very concerned that Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups will make the wrong decision to try to “pile up” and expand the war.
The carrier strike group based in Norfolk, Virginia, was already in the Mediterranean. Last week it conducted naval maneuvers with Italy in the Ionian Sea. The aircraft carrier is on its first full deployment.