First plane carrying US ammo lands in Israel as troops mass near Gaza

Israeli military says 300,000 troops are massing close to the Gaza Strip for possible ground assault on Hamas.

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, as seen from Ashkelon in southern Israel October 8, 2023. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
The US is believed to be providing more interceptors to Israel to replenish the Iron Dome aerial defence system [Amir Cohen/Reuters]

The first plane carrying American ammunition for Israel’s offensive on Gaza has landed in the country, as hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops mass for a possible ground assault on the besieged enclave.

Wednesday’s announcement comes after the United States said it would send new supplies of air defences, munitions and other security assistance to its ally to battle Hamas.

Aside from the ammunition, the US is also believed to be providing more interceptors to Israel to replenish its Iron Dome. In recent days, a barrage of rockets from Gaza has hit several targets in Israel, evading its much-vaunted aerial defence system.

Israel is a major long-term recipient of US military aid and enjoys a steady stream of American financial support.

Washington in 2016 agreed to provide $38bn in military aid to Tel Aviv over 10 years, in its largest-ever military assistance package given to a single country.

In the current phase of the conflict, Israel needs small arms for its infantry and air defence interceptors to protect its civilian infrastructure and military command and control centres.

Just hours before the latest announcement of military assistance, US President Joe Biden President reiterated his support for Israel, describing Hamas’s attack on Saturday as “an act of sheer evil”.

Biden also warned those who might seek to take advantage of the situation to stay away, saying US forces had “enhanced our military force posture in the region to strengthen our deterrence”.

Earlier, Biden had ordered the deployment of the USS Gerald Ford, the world’s largest aircraft carrier, near Israel.

Biden also despatched Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel, where the top diplomat will deliver “a message of solidarity and support,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington was talking also with Israel and Egypt about the idea of creating a safe passage for civilians out of Gaza, including Palestinian Americans.

‘We will come from the ground’

Washington’s show of support comes as Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has pledged to escalate the war against Hamas with a ground offensive.

“We started the offensive from the air, later on, we will also come from the ground,” Gallant told Israeli troops near the Gaza fence, the Reuters news agency reported.

“We’ve been controlling the area since day two and we are on the offensive. It will only intensify.”

“Hamas wanted a change and it will get one,” he added. “What was in Gaza will no longer be.”

Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the Israeli military, also said in a social media post that hundreds of thousands of troops were massing near the Gaza Strip for the war with Hamas.

“What we are doing in these areas close to the Gaza Strip, is that we have deployed… our infantry, armoured soldiers, our artillery corps and many other soldiers from the reserves – 300,000 in numbers – in different brigades and divisions and they are now close to the Gaza Strip, getting ready to execute the mission … that we have been given by the Israeli government,” Conricus said in a video posted on the social media platform X.

“And that is to make sure that Hamas, at this end of this war, won’t have any military capabilities by which they can threaten or kill Israeli civilians,” he said.

An Israeli soldier directs a self-propelled howitzer near the southern city of Ashkelon on October 8, 2023. Surging violence between Israel and Hamas has killed almost 1,000 people since the Palestinian militants launched a massive surprise attack, officials said Sunday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a "long and difficult" war ahead. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/ AFP)
Israeli says it has called up 300,000 reservists for its offensive against Hamas [Gil Cohen/AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies