Palestinians evacuate following an Israeli airstrike

Palestinians evacuate following an Israeli airstrike on the Sousi mosque in Gaza City on October 9, 2023.

(Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

'Only Emboldens an Extremist Government': US Preparing to Send More Weapons to Israel

"The U.S. backing military escalation at this time is grossly irresponsible," said the American Jewish group IfNotNow.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Sunday that the U.S. is getting ready to send additional weaponry and other military assistance to Israel as it prepares to launch a ground invasion of Gaza and continues to hammer the occupied and blockaded enclave with deadly airstrikes.

Austin said in a statement that he has "directed the movement" of U.S. Navy vessels, including a guided missile cruiser and an aircraft carrier, to the Eastern Mediterranean in the wake of Hamas' attack on Israel, which left more than 700 dead.

"In addition, the United States government will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions," said Austin. "The first security assistance will begin moving today and arriving in the coming days."

The Biden administration is also expected to ask Congress to approve additional military assistance for Israel.

IfNotNow, an American Jewish organization that opposes the Israeli occupation, expressed alarm over the U.S. response, writing on social media that "no amount of families destroyed or cities reduced to rubble will bring the dead back."

"The U.S. backing military escalation at this time is grossly irresponsible," the group wrote. "This move only emboldens an extremist government hell-bent on escalating unspeakable crimes on the Palestinian people."

"As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue."

The Israeli military is already armed to the teeth with U.S. weaponry, which has been used in previous deadly assaults on Gaza, an open-air prison where residents regularly face violence and repression from Israeli occupiers and are denied access to the basic necessities of life, including clean water.

Under a 10-year agreement reached in 2016, the U.S. provides Israel $3.8 billion in military assistance annually. As The Wall Street Journalnoted Sunday, Israel "is the largest cumulative recipient of overall U.S. aid since World War II, including billions for missile defense and purchases of U.S. military equipment."

"Over the past few years, the U.S. has sold Israel heavy-lift helicopters, aerial-refueling tankers, naval guns, and much more," the Journal added. "Israel was the first foreign country to fly the advanced F-35 jet fighter."

According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has provided Israel with $158 billion in military assistance to date.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American woman ever elected to Congress, said in a statement Sunday that "as long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue."

"The path to that future must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance. The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer."

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) similarly argued that "as part of achieving a just and lasting peace, we must do our part to stop this violence and trauma by ending U.S. government support for Israeli military occupation and apartheid."

Israeli airstrikes launched in the wake of Hamas' attack on Saturday have killed more than 400 people in Gaza, including dozens of children—a death toll that's set to rise in the coming days as Israel readies a ground assault.

The Washington Postreported that "U.S. officials are expecting the Israeli government to launch a ground incursion into Gaza in the next 24 to 48 hours in what is likely to quickly add to the death toll in the conflict as Israeli forces enter the densely populated Gaza Strip."

According to the Post, Israel has requested that the U.S. government provide "a replenishment of Iron Dome interceptors, small-diameter bombs, ammunition rounds for machine guns, and heightened cooperation on intelligence-sharing related to potential military activities in southern Lebanon."

Israel has formally declared war on Hamas and announced a "total" blockade of the besieged Gaza Strip, a move that could devastate civilians.

"No electricity, no food, no water, no gas—it's all closed," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement.

Israel first imposed what human rights organizations have described as an unlawful air, land, and sea blockade on Gaza in 2007.

Amnesty International said in a report released last year that "the blockade and Israel's repeated military offensives have had a heavy toll on Gaza's essential infrastructure and further debilitated its health system and economy, leaving the area in a state of perpetual humanitarian crisis."

"Indeed, Israel's collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population, the majority of whom are children, has created conditions inimical to human life due to shortages of housing, potable water, and electricity, and lack of access to essential medicines and medical care, food, educational equipment, and building materials," the group added.

In a statement on Sunday, Amnesty said that "the root causes of these repeated cycles of violence must be addressed as a matter of urgency."

"This requires upholding international law and ending Israel's 16-year-long illegal blockade on Gaza, and all other aspects of Israel's system of apartheid imposed on all Palestinians," said the human rights organization. "The Israeli government must refrain from inciting violence and tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, especially around religious sites. Amnesty International calls on the international community to urgently intervene to protect civilians and prevent further suffering."

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