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The Biden administration is sending an additional $1 billion in weapons and ammunition to Israel, congressional aides say

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has told key lawmakers it is sending a new package of more than $1 billion in weapons and ammunition to Israel, three congressional aides said Tuesday.

It is the first arms transfer to Israel announced by the government since it suspended a new arms transfer – consisting of 3,500 bombs – this month. The government has said it paused that earlier transfer to prevent Israel from using the bombs in its growing offensive in the busy southern Gaza city of Rafah.

The White House has been criticized from both sides of the US political spectrum for its military support for Israel’s now seven-month war against Hamas in Gaza. Part of the president Joe BidenHis fellow Democrats have pushed him to limit transfers of assault weapons to Israel to pressure the US ally to do more to protect Palestinian civilians. Many Republicans condemn any reduction in military aid to Israel.

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The package being shipped includes about $700 million in tank munitions, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar shells, congressional aides said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an arms transfer that has not yet been made public.

There was no immediate indication when the weapons would be shipped. It is not clear whether this shipment is part of the long-delayed foreign aid package that Congress passed and Biden signed last month, a tranche of existing arms sales or a new sale.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the plans to move the package.

House Republicans planned to introduce a bill this week that would mandate the delivery of offensive weapons to Israel. Following Biden’s decision to halt bomb shipments last week, Republicans have been quick to condemn them, arguing it means abandoning America’s closest ally in the Middle East.

The White House said Tuesday that Biden would veto the bill if it passed Congress. The bill also has virtually no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Democrats in the House of Representatives are somewhat divided on the issue, and about two dozen have signed a letter to the Biden administration saying they are “deeply concerned about the message” sent by halting the shipment of bombs interrupt.

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One of the letter’s signatories, New York Rep. Ritchie Torres, said he would likely vote for the bill despite White House opposition.

“I have a general rule that I support pro-Israel legislation unless it contains a poison pill – such as domestic policy cuts,” he said.

In addition to the written veto threat, the White House has been in contact with several lawmakers and congressional aides about the legislation, according to an administration official.

“We strongly oppose efforts to limit the President’s ability to deploy U.S. security assistance consistent with U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this week, adding adding that the administration plans to use “every last cent” appropriated by Congress in the supplemental national security package signed into law by Biden last month.

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Associated Press writers Stephen Groves and Lisa Mascaro contributed.

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