This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows smoke billowing behind destroyed buildings due to Israeli strikes on the besieged Palestinian territory on April 2, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Image Credit: AFP

WASHINGTON: The United States granted approval this week for the transfer of thousands of additional bombs to Israel although they will not be delivered until at least next year, a Biden administration official said on Thursday.

The official said the approved transfer included 1,000 MK82 500-pound bombs, more than 1,000 small-diameter bombs and fuses for MK80 bombs.

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The US has continued to supply its ally Israel with weapons despite growing criticism of the war in Gaza.

On Monday - the same day as the approvals - Israel carried out a strike on Gaza that killed seven World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid workers.

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Washington has expressed outrage at the attacks and called for Israel to swiftly investigate.

A second US official said the Israeli strike happened much later in the day on Monday than the approvals.

The first official said the munitions were drawn from authorizations to send arms to Israel approved long ago and will not be delivered before 2025.

The Washington Post reported the approvals earlier on Thursday.

Meanwhile, aid groups said the international community must treat the deadly Israeli strike that killed humanitarian workers as a watershed moment, accusing Israel of “systematic” attacks on civilians and NGOs working there.

Charities told AFP they had no immediate plans to pull out of Gaza after an Israeli air strike killed seven staff of the US-based WCK.

But they said conditions were becoming increasingly impossible, pointing to serious problems with a coordination system that is aimed at keeping aid workers safe from Israeli strikes.

The United Nations says the bloodiest-ever Gaza war has left nearly 200 aid workers dead, including more than 175 members of the UN’s staff.

The WCK stressed that its staff had come under attack “despite coordinating movements” with the Israeli army and travelling in a de-conflicted zone in two armoured cars branded with the WCK logo and another vehicle.

“Israel has now killed more aid workers in Gaza than all other armies, militias and terrorists in all other wars combined,” said Jan Egeland who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“I deeply hope that this terrible attack will act as some kind of watershed moment, and lead to a change in approach,” he said, reiterating calls for a sustained ceasefire.

Bushra Khalidi, Oxfam’s policy adviser for the Palestinian territories, said staff have been “terrified” and tried to minimise their movements.

“There’s been a deliberate and systematic assault on humanitarian aid efforts, including humanitarian aid workers,” she said. “We’ve seen a systematic disregard for the de-confliction system.”

‘Deep crisis’

Benjamin Gaudin, who leads the Middle East operations of Premiere Urgence Internationale, a France-based NGO, said his organisation had no immediate plans to pull out even though it was “very difficult” to continue to work in Gaza.

“This attack is catastrophic not only for the World Central Kitchen, but also for the entire humanitarian community,” said Gaudin.

Like other relief groups, Gaudin’s NGO has been seeking to closely coordinate their movements with Israel through a special “platform” but pointed to communications problems.

“So far it hasn’t guaranteed the safety of the organisations, because many incidents have occurred despite this system being put in place,” he said.

Egeland said the notification and coordination system with the Israeli army was “in deep crisis” and had to be rebooted.

The deadly attack “either shows that Israel has no control over its forces - that indiscriminately attack in Gaza - or that it has never communicated with its armed operations the notifications that it had promised to communicate,” he said. “Both would be unforgivable.”

Camilla Dogliotti of Handicap International whose office in Gaza City was destroyed in a bombing strike in late January said “the level of risk is very high in some southern and central areas of Gaza and unacceptable in all other areas.”

“This new attack is first and foremost the consequence of Israel’s continued disrespect of international humanitarian law and of the required protection of civilians, including aid workers, during conflict,” she said.

Gaza is under a near-complete blockade, with the United Nations accusing Israel of preventing deliveries of humanitarian assistance to its population of 2.4 million.

France-based Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has lost five Palestinian staff since the start of the war. They were killed either in Israeli bombardments or shot at point-blank range close by an Israeli roadblock, according to the group.

“The level of danger we are facing in Gaza is unprecedented in the history of MSF,” said spokeswoman Claire Magone.

Caroline Seguin, deputy program manager for Middle East at MSF, believes Israeli authorities are targeting hospitals intentionally and also restricting their ability to deploy equipment.

“There are now only 10 or so hospitals operating in the Gaza Strip, whereas there used to be 36,” Seguin said. “There’s a lot of equipment that we’re trying to get in, but the Israelis are systematically rejecting it, particularly desalination plants so that we can give people plenty of water.”

“I don’t know how we’re going to carry on working,” she added. “We will continue, for as long as we can.”