A very large delivery of US weaponry to Israel consisting of 3,000 tons of “ammunition” is scheduled to sail to Israel. The size and nature of the shipments are described as “unusual”:
“Shipping 3,000-odd tons of ammunition in one go is a lot,” one broker said, on condition of anonymity.
“This (kind of request) is pretty rare and we haven’t seen much of it quoted in the market over the years,” he added.
“Shipping brokers in London who have specialized in moving arms for the British and U.S. military in the past said such ship charters to Israel were rare. (Reuters, Jan 10, 2009)
The Pentagon has entrusted a Greek merchant shipping company to deliver the weapons to Israel:
“The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tons of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.
The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as “ammunition” on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.
A “hazardous material” designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators, but no other details were given.(Ibid)
It is worth noting that a similar unusually large shipment of US ordinance to Israel was scheduled in early December:
“Tender documents indicate that the German ship hired by the US in early December also carried a massive cargo of weapons that weighed over 2.6 million kg [2600 tons] and filled up to 989 standard 20-foot containers to Ashdod from North Carolina.” (Press TV, 10 Jan 2009)
Are These Large Shipments of Ordinance Connected to the Invasion of Gaza?
The request by the Pentagon to transport ordinance in a commercial vessel, according to Reuters, was made on December 31, 4 days after the commencement of the aerial bombings of Gaza by F16 Fighter jets.
Analysts have hastily concluded, without evidence, that the 2 shipments of “ammunition” were intended to supply Israel’s armed forces in support of its military invasion of Gaza.
“A senior military analyst in London who declined to be named said that, because of the timing, the shipments could be “irregular” and linked to the Gaza offensive.” (Reuters, January 10, 2009)
These reports are mistaken. Delivery of ordinance always precedes the onslaught of a military operation. The ordinance required under “Operation Cast Lead” was decided upon in June 2008. Further to Tel Aviv’s request under the US military aid program to Israel, the U.S. Congress approved in September 2008 the transfer of 1,000 bunker-buster high precision GPS-guided Small Diameter Guided Bomb Units 39 (GBU-39).
The GBU 39 smart bombs produced by Boeing were delivered to Israel in November. They were used in the initial air raids on Gaza:
“…The Israel Air Force has used the new lightweight GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb acquired from the USA, in the recent attacks in Gaza. The [Jerusalem] Post mentioned the new weapons ordered last September having arrived last month [November], and already put to action with the IAF fighters. These weapons could have been deployed by the Boeing/IAF F-15Is, since sofar SDB is cleared for use only with this type of aircraft.
It is highly unlikely that the bulk of the weaponry included in these two large shipments, scheduled to arrive in Israel in late January, is intended to be used in Israel’s military operation in Gaza. The GBU-39 is lightweight (130 kg). The entire shipment of GBU 39s (1000 units) would be of the order of a modest 130 tons. In other words, the specifications of the GBU 39 do not match the description of the “unusually large” and “heavy” shipment of ordinance.
The shipment ordered on December 31 is of the order of 3000 tons, an unusually large and heavy cargo of “ammunition” pointing to the transfer of heavy weaponry to Israel.
According to US military statements, the ordinance is for stockpiling, to be used “at short notice” in the eventuality of a conflict:
“This previously scheduled shipment is routine and not in support of the current situation in Gaza. …The U.S. military pre-positions stockpiles in some countries in case it needs supplies at short notice.” (Reuters, 10 Jan 2009, emphasis added)
Whatever the nature of these large weapons shipments, they are intended for use in a future military operation in the Middle East.