Republicans in US House pass bill pushing Biden to send weapons to Israel

The act is not expected to become law, but its passage shows the depth of the election-year divide in the US over Israel.

U.S. House passes bill pushing Biden to send weapons to Israel
Democrats say Republicans were distorting Biden's position on Israel [Reuters]

The Republican-led US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would force President Joe Biden to send weapons to Israel, seeking to rebuke the Democrat for delaying bomb shipments as he urges Israel to do more to protect civilians during its war with Hamas.

The Israel Security Assistance Support Act was approved 224 to 187, largely along party lines. Sixteen Democrats joined most Republicans in voting yes, and three Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the measure on Thursday.

The act is not expected to become law, but its passage underlined the deep US election-year divide over Israel policy as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government seeks to wipe out Hamas fighters who attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people captive.

Palestinian authorities say at least 35,272 civilians have been killed during Israel’s campaign in Gaza. Malnutrition is widespread and much of the population of the coastal territory has been left homeless, with infrastructure destroyed.

“This is a catastrophic decision with global implications. It is obviously being done as a political calculation, and we cannot let this stand,” Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson told a news conference with other party leaders on Wednesday.

Democrats also accused their rivals of playing politics, saying Republicans were distorting Biden’s position on Israel.

“It is not a serious effort at legislation, which is why some of the most pro-Israel members of the House Democratic caucus will be voting no,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told a news conference before the vote.

Enormous casualties in Rafah

Biden placed the hold on the transfer of the bombs this month over concerns the weapons could inflict enormous casualties in Rafah and to deter Israel from going ahead with the attack.

Early in May, Biden also told CNN that he would not be “supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah” if Israeli forces go into “population centres”.

Rights advocates, lawmakers and protesters across the US have demanded an end to the transfers, warning the president that the arms were being used for human rights violations and war crimes in Gaza.

Israel, a major recipient of US military assistance for decades, is still due to get billions of dollars of US weaponry, despite the delay of one shipment of 2,000-pound (907kg) and 500-pound bombs, and the Biden administration’s review of other weapons shipments.

As recently as Tuesday, the State Department had moved a $1bn package of weapons aid for Israel into the congressional review process, US officials said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies