U.S. to “sell” Israel 5,000 smart bombs

[ Will this further endear the U.S. to the Middle East? –BL ]

21 Sept. 2004 | Haaretz

by Aluf Benn

The United States will sell Israel 5,000 smart bombs for $319 million, according to a report made to Congress a few weeks ago.

The funding will come from the U.S. military aid to Israel, and the bombs range from airborne versions, guidance units, training bombs and detonators. The bombs are guided by satellite, in a system already in the Israel Defense Forces arsenal. The guidance unit receives a signal from a satellite, correcting the bomb’s course to the target.

The Pentagon told Congress that the bombs are meant to maintain Israel’s qualitative advantage, and advance U.S. strategic and tactical interests.

Among the bombs the air force will get are 500 one-ton bunker busters that can penetrate two-meter-thick cement walls; 2,500 regular one-ton bombs; 1,000 half-ton bombs; and 500 quarter-ton bombs.

Government sources said the bomb deal, one of the largest weapons deals of recent years, did not face any political difficulties, despite the use Israel has made of U.S.-made F-16s in some of its assassinations in the territories. The IDF used a one-ton bomb to kill a senior Hamas officer, Salah Shehadeh, in July 2002, an assassination that also took the lives of 15 Palestinian civilians, including children. In September 2003, the air force used a smaller, quarter-ton bomb, to strike at Hamas leaders, but missed. In other cases, half-ton bombs have been used.

An unidentified senior Israeli security official said, “This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria,” according to Reuters.

An Iran Defense Ministry spokesman responded, saying that Israel has received more advanced weapons from the United States than the bunker buster bombs.

“This could be psychological warfare to test us,” he added.

The government sources said Israel will not be asking for any new weapons systems or purchases until after the upcoming November elections. On October 12, delegations from the two countries meet for their regular six month session for strategic cooperation.

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