Sat, 28 Jan 2023

The move has stoked concerns among officials in Israel, which has so far refused to send weapons to Kiev

The US military is supplying Ukraine with hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds pulled from stockpiles based in Israel, according to the New York Times. The Pentagon is reportedly "scrambling" to find munitions as Ukrainian forces continue to exhaust their arsenal.

The Pentagon has drawn from a "vast but little-known stockpile of American ammunition in Israel to help meet Ukraine's dire need for artillery shells," the Times reported on Tuesday, citing multiple unnamed Israeli and American officials. While it's unclear when the deal was struck, Israel has agreed to allow Washington to source some 300,000 155-millimeter rounds from warehouses on its territory.

"About half of the 300,000 rounds destined for Ukraine have already been shipped to Europe and will eventually be delivered through Poland," the Times added.

Though the stockpile in Israel is intended for use in America's Middle East conflicts, several of which continue on a simmer, the Pentagon has been forced to seek new weapons supplies as Ukrainian troops reportedly blow through around 90,000 shells per month - twice the rate produced by the United States and Europe combined.

The United States has sent or authorized the shipment of just over one million 155-millimeter rounds to Ukraine since the conflict with Russia kicked off last February. "A sizable portion" of that has been pulled from existing inventories in South Korea and Israel, a senior US official told the Times, though did not specify the total sourced from each. 

While Israeli officials "initially expressed concerns" about the plan to draw from stocks in their own country, believing it could suggest Israel is "complicit in arming Ukraine," the government ultimately agreed on the condition that the Pentagon replenishes the armaments. Washington has additionally pledged to "immediately ship ammunition in a severe emergency," the Times said.

Israel maintains ties with both Ukraine and Russia, and has sought to walk a diplomatic tight-rope between the two conflicting states since fighting erupted last year. Though it has offered to help broker peace talks and provided several rounds of humanitarian aid to Kiev, Israel has largely refused to join its Western allies in arming Ukraine or sanctioning the Russian economy, fearing such hostile actions could harm relations with Moscow.

READ MORE: Kissinger offers 'updated' Ukraine plan

Under President Joe Biden, the US has authorized some $25 billion in direct military aid to Kiev, recently agreeing to send 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and a range of other weapons in its latest $3 billion arms package. Ukrainian officials have continued to clamor for additional gear, however, and are now urging Washington and its European allies to send main battle tanks and better air defenses, among other weapons. While the US has so far declined demands for tanks, military leaders from the 'Ukraine Defense Contact Group,' which includes NATO members, will meet at Germany's Ramstein Air Base on Friday to discuss the possible shipment of heavier arms.

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