The U.S. State Department has approved a $320 million sale to Israel of equipment for kits that turn unguided bombs into more precise, GPS-guided munitions, according to a letter sent by the department to Congress that was obtained by The New York Times.
The order comes on top of an earlier one for the same equipment that was valued at almost $403 million.
Israel has been using the kits during its bombing campaign in Gaza. According to the Gaza health ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government in the enclave, the Israeli strikes have resulted in the deaths of about 10,000 Palestinians, 40 percent of whom are young children and teens.
Israel has ordered more munitions from the United States alongside the equipment for guided bomb kits. Modern militaries generally add the guidance systems on their bombs with the goal of minimizing civilian casualties, although the damage can still be devastating, especially in urban areas.
Israel’s arsenal of air munitions is made up largely of 1,000- and 2,000-pound bombs, among the largest used by any military force. Israel dropped at least two 2,000-pound bombs in an airstrike on Oct. 31 on the dense Jabaliya neighborhood of Gaza. That strike killed dozens of people and injured many more, according to Gazan authorities and hospital officials.
Israel says it had successfully targeted a senior Hamas commander who helped plan the Oct. 7 attacks launched from Gaza, in which Hamas fighters and other armed men killed what Israel says was more than 1,400 people, most of them Israeli civilians, and abducted more than 240 others. Hamas denies that any of its commanders were in the Jabaliya area at the time of the Oct. 31 strike.
The State Department happened to send its letter on the new sale of bomb equipment to congressional offices on the day of that strike on Jabaliya. The letter says that Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a weapons maker owned by Israel’s Defense Ministry, is paying $320 million for equipment and services for “Spice Family Gliding Bomb Assemblies,” a reference to a type of precision bomb kit made by Rafael. The seller of the equipment is Rafael USA, an American company based in Bethesda, Md., that has links to the Israeli enterprise.
The sale is one in which a foreign entity is purchasing armament directly from an American company rather than through the U.S. government, so the State Department is only required to disclose its approval in narrow channels. The congressional register notes the State Department filed the letter on Oct. 31, but the letter is not available on any public congressional websites or on the State Department’s site.
The letter was sent from Naz Durakoglu, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs, to House Speaker Mike Johnson, as well as to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, both of which monitor the State Department’s approval of weapons sales.
The Israeli request for authorization to buy the $320 million of bomb equipment was placed earlier this year and had gone through an informal review process with the congressional committees, but had not received final State Department approval before the Oct. 7 attacks, said Josh Paul, a recent State Department official who worked in the political-military bureau, which oversees weapons sales.
The earlier order placed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems for the same type of equipment, and valued at almost $403 million, was approved by the department on Feb. 5, according to the letter.