A group of US-based aid, advocacy, and religious groups sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin urging the Pentagon to scrap plans to provide Israel with 155mm artillery rounds due to the massive civilian casualty rate in Israel’s war on Gaza.
The Pentagon plans to give the Israeli military access to 155mm artillery shells the US has in a special stockpile located in Israel. The US has recently dipped into the stash to support its proxy war in Ukraine, and according to a recent report from Axios, the US is now diverting shells initially bound for Ukraine to replenish the stockpile.
“Under the current circumstances, granting the government of Israel access to these munitions would undermine the protection of civilians, respect for international humanitarian law [IHL], and the credibility of the Biden administration,” the groups wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Washington Post. “Simply put, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which high explosive 155mm artillery shells could be used in Gaza in compliance with IHL.”
Since the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, the US has been rushing weapons shipments to Israel to back its assault on Gaza. The Pentagon has said it’s sending arms on a near-daily basis, but the US won’t detail what it’s providing Israel.
NBC News reported last month that the weapons shipments have included interceptors for the Iron Dome air defense, JDAM conversion kits to turn “dumb” bombs into precision-guided munitions, other types of munitions, and cluster bombs, which are notorious for killing civilians.
The NBC report said the cluster bombs the US was providing were dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM), which have a 155mm artillery shell variant. The US has shipped 155mm DPICM cluster bombs to Ukraine despite the massive risk to civilians.
Cluster bombs are so hazardous to civilians because they spread small submunitions over large areas, and many don’t explode on impact, leaving them to be found years or even decades later by civilians. Because of their indiscriminate nature, cluster munitions have been banned by over 100 nations, but the US is not a signatory to the treaty.