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US quietly shipping ammunition to Ukraine from massive stockpile in Israel: Report

Ukrainian soldiers fire a Pion artillery system at Russian positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on December 15, 2022. (Photo by AP)

A new report says the United States is quietly sending hundreds of thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine from the so-called American emergency stockpile in Israel, amid Russia's ongoing war with the former Soviet state.

The New York Times, citing US and Israeli officials, reported on Wednesday that the Pentagon was tapping into the massive stockpile, which provides arms and ammunition for the US military to use in Middle East conflicts, to help meet Ukraine's need for artillery shells in the war with Russia.

Washington and Tel Aviv have agreed to ship around 300,000 shells to Ukraine, the report said, adding that half of the rounds destined for Kiev have already been shipped to Europe and will eventually be delivered through Poland.

According to the newspaper, US officials have been acting behind the scenes to collect enough shells to keep Ukraine sufficiently supplied in 2023, as Kiev is running low on ammunition for its own Soviet-era weaponry.

The US has delivered or promised slightly more than 1 million 155-millimeter shells to Kiev, a US official told The Times, as artillery has become key in the war in Ukraine.

US officials first brought up the possibility of supplying Ukraine from the stockpile in Israel last year, sparking concerns in Tel Aviv about how Russia would react. Benny Gantz, Israel's minister of military affairs at the time, discussed the request with the cabinet. The then-Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid approved the move after the talks with the cabinet and security officials, the report said.

Israeli officials told The Times that Tel Aviv had agreed to the US using its own supplies, but had not altered its position against giving Ukraine lethal weapons.

Israel has tried to remain neutral over Russia's war on Ukraine, saying it will not consider sending offensive arms or advanced defensive technology to Kiev but will attempt to find equipment that can be donated without sparking a crisis with Moscow.

However, Israel was soon pushed to join Western countries in condemning Russia and accusing Moscow of committing alleged war crimes, despite the fact that the two sides had been on good terms.

In April last year, Russia threatened Israel with retaliatory measures if Tel Aviv supplied Ukraine with military equipment and aid.

The US military munitions stockpile in Israel dates back to the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, when the US delivered weapons to resupply Israeli forces.

Israel is also allowed to have direct access to the stockpile "in emergency situations," and weapons could be transferred through significantly streamlined Foreign Military Sales channels.

The existence of the stockpile had been previously acknowledged, although it was not widely known. The Times was the first to report it was being used to supply Ukraine.

Russia launched what it calls "a special military operation" against Ukraine in late February over the perceived threat of the country joining NATO.

Since then, the US and Ukraine's other allies have sent Kiev tens of billions of dollars' worth of weapons, including rocket systems, drones, armored vehicles, tanks, and communication systems. Western countries have also imposed a slew of economic sanctions on Moscow.

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