The US is planning to transfer $320 million worth of precision-guided bomb equipment to Israel, according to three people familiar with the matter, amid Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza as part of its war on Hamas.
The sale of the Spice Family Gliding Bomb Assemblies – a type of precision bomb kit that can turn unguided bombs into GPS-guided munitions – to Israel was approved by the relevant US congressional committees several months ago, before Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 and sparked a war, one of the sources said.
But the State Department did not formally notify congressional leaders that the transfer was moving forward until October 31, according to the sources and a formal notification reviewed by CNN.
The notification, addressed to the speaker of the house, House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says that defense contractor Rafael USA would transfer “defense articles, technical data, and defense services to support procurement, inspection, assembly, testing, and shipment of Spice Family Gliding Bomb Assemblies for end-use by the Ministry of Defense for Israel.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported that the US plans to transfer the kits.
SPICE stands for Smart, Precise Impact, and Cost Effective. The weapons are produced by Rafael USA, the American branch of one of Israel’s most prominent arms manufacturers. The guidance kits are similar to JDAMs produced by the US. JDAMs – joint direct attack munitions – are also fin and steering kits that turn unguided “dumb” bombs into guided “smart” bombs. The US began expediting the delivery of JDAMs to Israel shortly after the start of the war, a senior defense official said in late October, which was one of Israel’s top needs, along with interceptor missiles for its aerial defense systems.
A State Department official told CNN that “as a matter of policy, we are unable to comment on or confirm specific defense trade licensing or compliance activity.”
The transfer comes as several countries have called for a ceasefire in Gaza, as the civilian death toll from Israeli air strikes continues to rise. White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that “many, many thousands of innocent people” have been killed in Gaza, noting that the US has “seen some indications” in “certain scenarios” that Israel is making an effort to minimize the civilian death toll there.
Senior US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have urged Israel to agree to humanitarian pauses to allow aid into – and civilians out of – Gaza. But the US has stopped short of calling for a ceasefire, arguing that it would benefit Hamas.
“When it comes to humanitarian pauses, we’re engaged with the Israelis on the particular practicalities of that. One critical aspect, though, is seeing progress on hostages. That’s something we’re intensely focused on. But we also believe that a pause could help advance that proposition as well,” Blinken said Monday.
But just hours after meeting with Blinken on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rejected any stop to the fighting – be it a pause or a ceasefire – until Hamas releases the more than 200 hostages it is believed to be holding inside Gaza.
In an interview with ABC News that aired on Monday, Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to a ceasefire without the release of hostages, but expressed openness to “tactical little pauses.”
“As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there. We’ve had them before, I suppose, we’ll check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages to leave,” the prime minister said, “But I don’t think there’s going to be a general ceasefire.”