An Israeli Apache helicopter releases flares while patrolling over the Israel-Gaza border on October 11, 2023. Israel declared war on Hamas on October 8 following a shock land, air, and sea assault by the Gaza-based militant group. Image Credit: AFP

Washington: Boeing Co. accelerated delivery of 1,000 smart bombs to Israel as the country steps up retaliation against Hamas after the devastating weekend attack that killed hundreds of people, industry and defence officials said.

The 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs, part of a 2021 contract, were flown from an Air Force base in the US by Israeli Air Force transport, according to an industry official who asked not to be identified discussing the arrangements.

A senior defence official who spoke to reporters said that munitions being rushed to Israel weren’t part of a “Foreign Military Sale” between governments but rather was part of a “Direct Commercial Sale” between the contractor and Israel that was already on the books.

A second defence official said on Tuesday that the first official was referring to expedited transactions under a May 2021 Direct Commercial Sale between Boeing and Israel, which the State Department valued at $735 million over several years.

It also includes kits to convert unguided bombs into GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. No Jdams kits have been sent yet, an official said.

The weapons, which can launched by Israel’s jets from over 40 miles (64 kilometres) - with each aimed at specific targets - “provide the means to precisely target terrorists in Gaza while minimising civilian casualties,” said Brad Bowman, a military analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who tracks Middle East military issues. He said that’s an important capability considering that Hamas is holding Israeli hostages.

The May 2021 sale was controversial when Congress was notified of it by the Biden administration. Senator Bernie Sanders and some House members moved to block the proposed sale in protest over Israeli attacks in Gaza at the time, but it wasn’t voted on, according to the Congressional Research Service.

A Boeing spokesperson declined to comment. According to an US Air Force fact sheet, the Small Diameter Bomb’s small size “inherently reduces the probability of collateral damage.”

Separately, the Biden administration is expected to announce fresh supplies of weapons to Israel, which receives more than $3 billion in US military aid every year.