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April 09, 2024

In Armed Services Hearing, King Questions Administration on Recent Munitions Transfer to Israel

In wake of World Central Kitchen tragedy, Senator says conduct is hurting Israel, suggests pausing offensive munitions transfers until serious attention is given to civilian casualties

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), U.S. Senator Angus King questioned Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about a recent munitions transfer from the United States to Israel. The hearing comes on the heels of a mistaken airstrike that resulted in the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen humanitarian workers in Gaza. King stressed that while Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas terrorists, it must also work diligently to reduce civilian casualties.

“It’s become apparent — I met with Prime Minister Netanyahu in January, the President has talked to him repeatedly, you used the word ‘encourage’— it has become apparent to me that the government of Israel needs more than encouragement. I was surprised that the very week that the [World Central Kitchen] attack occurred and the continuing humanitarian crisis, that the administration approved the transfer of additional munitions to Israel, particularly offensive munitions. 2000-pound bombs are not defensive, they are offensive and they are not very precise,” began Senator King. “Why did the administration make that decision? It seems to me that the President’s hand would be strengthened significantly if he had said, ‘We’re going to pause this planned conveyance of these offensive weapons until we see some serious attention to the humanitarian crisis and the problem of civilian casualties.”

“I had the opportunity to speak with my counterpart on this attack and I was very up front in terms of how horrific this was and the fact that it needed to be investigated and people held accountable. We are seeing some of that activity. In terms of, as the President engaged the Prime Minister, I will not speak to the contents of that conversation, but it clearly had an effect and we have seen changes in behavior and we have seen more humanitarian assistance being pushed into Gaza,” responded Secretary Austin. “There needs to be more still. But again, I think the President’s conversation did have a positive effect. Now, hopefully that trend will continue but that is left to be seen.”

“Well, again, I think all of us feel Israel has not only a right but a responsibility to defend itself, but it is the conduct by which they are doing so that is actually hurting Israel. That’s what bothers me. I consider myself a friend of Israel. And by not separating the Palestinian civilians from Hamas, they are playing into Hamas’ hand,” Senator King replied.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator King is recognized as an authoritative voice on national security and foreign policy issues. He has continuously supported Israel’s right to defend itself from the October 7th terrorist attack. Senator King has also stressed the need to reduce civilian casualties in its effort to defeat Hamas. In a November 2023 letter, King and his colleagues pressed for answers on how assistance would advance efforts to engage with Israel, Egypt, and the broader international community to address the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Most recently, alongside SASC Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI), King was instrumental in the White House’s decision to establish a temporary port in Gaza to facilitate more humanitarian aid to Palestinians in need.


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