US House votes to force weapons shipments to Israel, rebuking Biden


By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would force President Joe Biden to send weapons to Israel, seeking to rebuke the Democrat for delaying bomb shipments as he urges Israel to do more to protect civilians during its war with Hamas.

The Israel Security Assistance Support Act was approved 224 to 187, largely along party lines. Sixteen Democrats joined most Republicans in voting yes, and three Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing the measure.

The act is not expected to become law, but its passage underscored the deep U.S. election-year divide over Israel policy as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government seeks to wipe out militants who attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Palestinian authorities say at least 35,272 civilians have been killed during Israel’s campaign in Gaza. Malnutrition is widespread and much of the population of the coastal enclave has been left homeless, with infrastructure destroyed.

Republicans accused Biden of turning his back on Israel after facing widespread pro-Palestinian protests.

“This is a catastrophic decision with global implications. It is obviously being done as a political calculation, and we cannot let this stand,” Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson told a news conference with other party leaders on Wednesday.

Democrats also accused the other party of playing politics, saying Republicans are distorting Biden’s position on Israel.

“It is not a serious effort at legislation, which is why some of the most pro-Israel members of the House Democratic caucus will be voting no,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told a news conference before the vote.

Israel, a major recipient of U.S. military assistance for decades, is still due to get billions of dollars of U.S. weaponry, despite the delay of one shipment of 2,000-pound (907-kg) and 500-pound bombs and the review of other weapons shipments by the Biden administration.

As recently as Tuesday, the State Department had moved a $1 billion package of weapons aid for Israel into the congressional review process, U.S. officials said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Alistair Bell)



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