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WASHINGTON: The US State Department has approved the emergency sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition, it said Saturday.

The department said it had notified Congress on Friday of a sale of 13,981 high-explosive 120mm tank cartridges and related equipment worth $106.5 million.

That sale, while relatively small, comes amid heated political debate over the Gaza war, with Republicans slowing a far larger Biden administration request for new military spending for Israel and Ukraine, and Democrats divided over the use of US weaponry against Palestinian civilians.

The State Department said the secretary of state had determined that “an emergency exists that requires the immediate sale to the Government of Israel” of the weaponry, thereby waiving the normal requirement of Congressional review.

The statement said the sale, from US Army inventory, would be used by Israel “as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense” and would “not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

On Wednesday, Republican senators blocked a White House request for $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel as conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded.

The package would include roughly $60 billion to help Ukraine in its war with Russia and $10 billion for Israel in its conflict with Hamas, as well as aid for Taiwan.

With the death toll in Gaza steadily mounting, meantime, some Democrats have strongly urged Israel to carry out a more targeted offensive against Hamas targets and limit civilian casualties.

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