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Biden approves emergency tank ammunition sale to Israel

President Joe Biden’s administration approved the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million as Israel intensifies its military operations in the southern Gaza Strip, the State Department said Saturday.

The department said it had notified Congress of the sale late Friday after Secretary of State Antony Blinken determined that “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale” of the munitions in the U.S. national security interest.

The emergency determination means that the purchase will bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales. Such determinations are rare, but not unprecedented, when administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for congressional approval.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the department said in a statement. “Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.”

The sale is worth $106.5 million and includes 13,981 120 mm High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridges as well as U.S. support, engineering and logistics.

Israeli warplanes struck parts of the Gaza Strip as Hamas said Saturday that it continued its rocket fire into Israel.

The Israeli military said Saturday that its forces fought and killed Hamas terrorists and found weapons inside a school in Shijaia in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City.

It said soldiers discovered a tunnel shaft in the same neighborhood where they found an elevator, and in a separate incident, terrorists shot at troops from a U.N.-run school in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

Israel holds Hamas terrorists responsible for civilian casualties, accusing them of using civilians as human shields, and says it has made considerable efforts with evacuation orders to get civilians out of harm’s way.

It says 93 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive after Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostage.

A weeklong truce that collapsed on Dec. 1 saw hostages and Palestinian prisoners released, but more than 130 hostages are believed to remain in Gaza.

On Saturday, a kibbutz that came under terrorist attack on Oct. 7 said 25-year-old hostage Sahar Baruch had died in captivity. His captors said Baruch was killed during a failed rescue mission by Israeli forces Friday. The Israeli military only confirmed that two soldiers were seriously wounded in an attempted hostage rescue and that no hostages were freed.

The continued hostilities in the Israel-Hamas war came a day after the United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.

Biden’s administration remains opposed to an open-ended cease-fire, arguing it would enable Hamas to continue posing a threat to Israel. Officials have expressed misgivings in recent days about the civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis but have not pushed publicly for Israel to wind down the war.

With the war now in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,400, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Hamas has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Protesters at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai called for a cease-fire, despite restrictions on demonstrations.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has argued that “a cease-fire is handing a prize to Hamas.”

Blinken continued to speak with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and elsewhere. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has said the U.S. veto of the Security Council resolution showed Washington’s isolation.

Fidan and the Palestinian, Saudi, Qatari, Nigerian, Indonesian, Egyptian and Jordanian ministers were to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday.

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Mroue reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Julia Frankel in Jerusalem; Samy Magdy in Cairo; Andrew Wilks in Istanbul; and Cara Anna in Albany, New York, contributed to this report.

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