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Pentagon: US 'surging' air defense, munitions to Israel

The United States is “surging” air defense and munitions to Israel following terrorist attacks against the country over the weekend, a senior defense official said Monday. 

“We remain in constant, ongoing contact with our counterparts in Israel to determine and then support their most urgent requirements,” the official told reporters Monday.

They declined to specify the exact weapons the Israelis had requested, only that they include “munitions of various types and other equipment.” 

Defense officials have also contacted “U.S. industry to gain expedited shipment of pending Israeli orders for military equipment that otherwise may have been considered routine for movement,” they said. 

In addition, the Pentagon is “working across the [Defense Department] enterprise including with U.S. Central Command to assess what munitions and other equipment are in U.S. inventories that can be made quickly available for Israel.” 

Palestinian militant group Hamas early Saturday launched the largest attack on Israel in decades, sending forces into multiple Israeli towns by land, sea and air, along with a barrage of rocket strikes in a surprise offensive. More than 1,000 Israelis and Palestinians were killed — as were 11 U.S. citizens — and thousands of others were injured. 

Washington quickly moved to assist Israel with President Biden on Sunday informing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “additional assistance” was making its way to the Israeli Defense Forces. More assistance would arrive in the coming days, Biden said. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday that a U.S. carrier strike group had moved closer to Israel in response to the attacks. 

Questions remain, however, as to the type and amount of lethal aid the U.S. military has available for Israel. The U.S. has already poured billions of dollars’ worth of such assistance into Ukraine for its fight against Russia for more than a year.  

The defense official said Monday the administration currently has “the resources, authorities and funding to continue our support to Israel,” but that officials are working with Congress “to ensure that the appropriate authority and appropriations are available to support and respond to crises and contingencies.” 

U.S. officials also have deep concerns about Hezbollah “making the wrong decision and choosing to open a second front to this conflict,” with the administration working with Israel and with regional partners to contain the fight to Gaza, the official noted. 

“It’s one of the main reasons why we adjusted our posture so quickly to increase our maritime presence in the eastern Mediterranean, because Iran-backed adversaries like Lebanese Hezbollah should not question the commitment of the U.S. government to support the defense of Israel,” they added. 

Austin also spoke with his Israeli counterpart Saturday and Sunday, with the Pentagon expecting “those phone calls to continue on a regular basis,” the official said. 

In addition, conversations are ongoing “across the U.S. government with all of our Israeli counterparts about [the] situation of hostages that Hamas is holding in Gaza,” according to the official. They would not offer additional details and declined to “get into hypotheticals” about any future U.S. role in the conflict, including recovering hostages. 

The official also claimed that “Iran is in the picture” in supporting Hamas. 

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