US stalls sale of 20,000 M16 rifles to Israel citing ‘concerns’ over extremist settler groups

The US government has pressed pause on approving licenses to sell more than 20,000 M16 assault rifles to Israel, citing “concerns” about the weapons ending up in the hands of extremist settler groups that have been terrorizing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

“This deal isn’t moving anywhere at the moment. We need more assurances from Israel about the steps it is going to take to curb attacks by violent settlers and to make sure no new US weapons will reach settlers in the West Bank,” an unnamed US official told Axios.

Tel Aviv requested the rifles during the first week of the war in Gaza for “civilian initial response teams” in settlements near Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria.

Washington gave an initial green light to the sale, worth about $34 million, after reportedly being “reassured” the weapons would not go to settler militias in West Bank settlements. However, as global sentiment turned against Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign in Gaza, US officials got cold feet about the sale, and the US State Department decided to put the licenses under a new review.

According to Axios, one of the main reasons for the new review is an army report leaked by Israeli media last month that claimed National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir ordered the police not to arrest violent settlers terrorizing Palestinian villages.

Following the start of the war in Gaza, the Jewish supremacist minister held several events where he handed out assault rifles to illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

“We will turn the world upside down so that towns are protected. I have given instructions for massively arming the civilian security teams to provide solutions for towns and cities. So as not to leave towns unprotected,” Ben-Gvir said during one of these events.

About 500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and armed settler groups in the occupied West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza on 7 October, making 2023 the deadliest year since 2002 at the peak of the Second Intifada.

Violent army raids and settler pogroms have been a near-daily occurrence in several West Bank cities since the current Jewish supremacist coalition government came to power one year ago.

Despite Washington’s newfound reservations about providing Israel with thousands of M16 rifles, the US has continued to send bombs and tank shells to fuel the mass murder of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. According to previously undisclosed intelligence figures provided to Congress earlier this month, during the first six weeks of the war, Israel dropped over 22,000 US-made bombs in Gaza.

Speaking to Democratic donors in Washington this week regarding US efforts to shape the outcome of the war, President Joe Biden said, “We’re not going to do a damn thing other than protect Israel in the process. Not a single thing.”

Confirming this, US officials told CNN on 13 December that the US has no plans to draw any red lines around the transfer of weapons and munitions to Israel. 

Source: The Cradle

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