US approval of $978m weapons sale to Israel criticised as 'adding fuel to fire' in Gaza conflict

By supplying arms, the US is obstructing United Nations Security Council resolutions and other efforts to reach a ceasefire. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JERUSALEM (XINHUA) - The United States administration's recent approval of a US$735 million (S$978 million) deal to supply Israel with precision-guided weapons is seen as "adding fuel to the fire" as the Israel-Gaza fighting rages on with no resolution in sight.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Washington Post reported on Monday (May 17) that Congress was officially notified of the proposed sale on May 5, nearly a week before the conflict escalated in Gaza between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday criticised the US for selling advanced weapons to Israel amid the flared-up conflict.

Mr Zarif, on his Twitter account, said the US sold Israel "precision" missiles to "kill more children with more precision".

Calling the US the "enabler" of Israel, Mr Zarif also accused the US of blocking the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to pass a statement on the conflicts.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Majid Takht Ravanchi, Iran's permanent representative to the UN, cited Washington's patronage for Israel as a key factor behind its sustained avoidance of accountability for the atrocities in the international arena, Iranian news network Press TV reported.

The US has been "systematically" shielding the Israeli government against international condemnation, the Iranian envoy said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday criticised President Joe Biden's approval of weapons sales to Israel, saying the US was "writing history with bloody hands" in those events of "seriously disproportionate attacks" on Gaza that have caused huge casualties.

"The declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital by the US and other countries following it towards the end of 2017 has increased the appetite of this murderous state to spill blood," Mr Erdogan said.

"Instead of actively preventing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the United States is prepared to add fuel to the fire," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

"The United States has fallen into unprecedented isolation in the UNSC and stands completely on the opposite side of human conscience and morality," he said, when answering a question from the press about the US arms deal.

Meanwhile, Dr Hilal Khashan, chair of the political studies department at the American University of Beirut, believed that the US' support for Israel is "ingrained in the formulation of the American foreign policy", regardless of whether the president was a Republican or a Democrat.

Iraqi political analyst Nadhum Ali Abdullah with the Arab Forum for Policy Analysis noted that the arms sales approval, which comes at a time when Israel is waging a fierce war against the Palestinians, will not help at all in easing the tensions or ending the bloodshed.

"This deal is a message of support to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government to continue their stubborn rejection of all solutions and international resolutions that seek to calm down the situation and stop the Palestinian bloodshed," he said.

By supplying weapons, the US is obstructing UNSC resolutions and other efforts to reach a ceasefire, he added.

Palestinian Popular Struggle Front secretary-general Khaled Abdul-Majid also attributed the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the US' support for Israel, "its military arm in the region".

"Such US biased stance is pushing away any solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that has been dragging on for seven decades," he said.

"Such huge support is giving the Israelis impunity and making them unwilling to truly negotiate or come up with a just and fair solution with the Palestinians," he added, urging Washington to "stop hindering efforts" to resolve the conflict, "come to its senses" and "live up to its own slogans which talk about liberty and equality as well as justice".

Within the US border, there is also condemnation against the administration's weapons sale approval.

A video posted online by news channel CBS showed a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in Los Angeles outside the Israeli consulate on Tuesday afternoon, holding Palestine national flags and signs while chanting slogans.

Israeli tanks positioned at the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, last Saturday. PHOTO: AFP

Minnesota Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar on Tuesday told CNN that it would be "appalling" if the administration went through with the sale, adding that it would be seen as "a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a ceasefire".

The ongoing conflict, the worst violence between Israel and the besieged Palestinian enclave since 2014, has killed 204 Palestinians, comprising 59 children, and 10 Israelis, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.

Mr Netanyahu said in a televised address on Sunday that the offensive will continue "with full force" and will take "as long as necessary", despite international efforts to broker a truce to quell the deadly flare-up.

In a phone call with Mr Netanyahu on Monday, Mr Biden said Israel has the right to "defend itself". But he also expressed support for a ceasefire.

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