Arab Herald – 2006-07-22 23:05:16
(July 22, 2006) — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week, American officials said Friday.
The New York Times in a report Friday, quoting US officials, said the decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration.
Israel has been engaged in heavy bombardment of the Palestinian occupied territories since July, and began a saturation campaign against Lebanon on July 12, destroying bridges, roads, the Beirut International Airport, other airports, ports, and power stations. More than 350 Lebanese have been killed by the airstrikes, nearly all of them civilians. The Health Ministry said Sunday night the number of people displaced has grown to 750,000.
The Bush administration decision flies in the face of its own accusations that Iran is supplying weapons to Hezbollah, a charge Iran vehemently denies.
It also points to US collaberation with Israel over its plans, its lack of urgency in dealing with the crisis, and its reluctance to consider a ceasefire.
The New York Times report says the munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, according to officials. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.
The new American arms shipment to Israel has not been announced publicly, says The Times, and the officials who described the administration’s decision to rush the munitions to Israel would discuss it only after being promised anonymity. The officials included employees of two government agencies, and one described the shipment as just one example of a broad array of armaments that the United States has long provided Israel.
One American official said the shipment should not be compared to the kind of an “emergency resupply” of dwindling Israeli stockpiles that was provided during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when an American military airlift helped Israel recover from early Arab victories.
David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said: “We have been using precision-guided munitions in order to neutralize the military capabilities of Hezbollah and to minimize harm to civilians. As a rule, however, we do not comment on Israel’s defense acquisitions.”
Israel’s need for precision munitions is driven in part by its strategy in Lebanon, which includes destroying hardened underground bunkers where Hezbollah leaders are said to have taken refuge, as well as missile sites and other targets that would be hard to hit without laser and satellite-guided bombs.
Pentagon and military officials declined to describe in detail the size and contents of the shipment to Israel, and they would not say whether the munitions were being shipped by cargo aircraft or some other means. But an arms-sale package approved last year provides authority for Israel to purchase from the United States as many as 100 GBU-28’s, which are 5,000-pound laser-guided bombs intended to destroy concrete bunkers. The package also provides for selling satellite-guided munitions.
The New York Times says an announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the “bunker buster” weapons described the GBU-28 as “a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.” The document added, “The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28’s on their F-15 aircraft.”
American officials said that once a weapons purchase is approved, it is up to the buyer nation to set up a timetable. But one American official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries within days of a request. That was done because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities, the official said.
Israel said its air force had dropped 23 tons of explosives Wednesday night alone in Beirut, in an effort to penetrate what was believed to be a bunker used by senior Hezbollah officials, reported The New York Times.
On Saturday the Israel Defense Forces said 150 targets had been hit in the previous 24 hours. Aside from the airstrikes, Israel is firing artillery along the Israel-Lebanon border, tanks Saturday moved into southern Lebanon, and navy ships are shelling the country.
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