The US military is quietly shipping hundreds of thousands of artillery shells to Ukraine from a massive stockpile in Israel, according to a Tuesday report.
The ammunition supply is located in Israel for the US military to use in regional conflicts. The United States has also authorized Israel to use some of the supplies in emergency situations, The New York Times reportedciting US and Israeli officials.
The previous administration endorsed the move as Israel tried to chart a course between maintaining ties with the United States and Ukraine and non-antagonism with Russia.
US officials first raised the possibility of supplying Ukraine from stock in Israel last year, raising concerns in Jerusalem about Russia’s reaction, the report said.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin informed Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister at the time, that the US wanted to tap into the stockpile, an Israeli official said.
Gantz discussed the request with the cabinet, which asked security officials to intervene. Defense officials said Israel would have to agree to the plan to avoid friction with Washington, and because the ammunition belonged to the United States. Then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid approved the move after talks with cabinet and security officials, the report said.
The United States and Israel have agreed to ship about 300,000 shells to Ukraine, Israeli and American officials told The Times.
The existence of the stock had already been acknowledged, although not widely known. The Times was the first to report that it was being used to supply Ukraine.
Israeli officials told The Times that Jerusalem has not changed its stance against supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine, but accepts the United States using its own supplies.
Israel has resisted supplying arms to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion. One of the main reasons for Israel’s hesitation appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.
The issue has strained ties between Jerusalem and Kyiv, as the Ukrainians have consistently pressed Israel to provide more defense aid. The Ukrainian ambassador on Tuesday again urged Israel to provide his country with missile defense systems in the wake of continued deadly Russian strikes.
Israel has provided significant amounts of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as other types of helpand the new government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it intends to maintain those supplies.
The US stockpile in Israel dates back to the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The US delivered weapons to beleaguered Israeli forces during the war and then set up storage facilities in Israel for use in the event of a potential crisis. .
US tanks and armored personnel carriers have been stowed in the Negev desert in case US forces in the Middle East need them. Later, in the 2000s, ammunition for the various branches of the US military was kept in Israel in locations that were only open to US personnel, according to the report.
The stock was officially known as the War Reserve Stocks for Allies-Israel, or WRSA-I. It was overseen by US European Command and is now overseen by US Central Command, which has included Israel since 2021.
Israel used ammunition from the stockpile during the 2006 Lebanon war against the Hezbollah terror group and during battles against Gaza terrorists in 2014, according to a congressional report last year.
Artillery has become key to the war in Ukraine as both sides fight at range in a battle of attrition.
Ukraine has depleted its own stockpiles and started using mostly supplies from the United States and other Western countries, but Kyiv forces are firing around 90,000 artillery shells per month, far exceeding manufacturing capabilities of the United States and Europe combined.
The United States turned to the stockpile in Israel, as well as another in South Korea, to make up the difference and keep the shells flowing to Ukraine. The ammunition is transported to Europe and transferred to Ukraine from Poland, according to the New York Times report.
Other countries like Germany, Canada and Italy also sent artillery shells to Ukraine. The United States has delivered or pledged just over a million 155mm shells to Kyiv, a US official told The Times.
Two senior Israeli officials said the United States was committed to replenishing its stockpile in Israel and providing ammunition in case of emergency.