The United States is diverting munitions stored in Israel to Ukraine for use in the war against Russia, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, saying the decision was made last year.
An Israeli official confirmed the report to Reuters, saying that then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid approved the transfer although the United States does not formally need such consent.
For decades, the Pentagon has stored munitions in Israel to serve as emergency resupplies for the country in wartime - or for handover to other U.S. allies.
According to the New York Times, the munitions Washington decided to move from Israel to Ukraine are around 300,000 155-millimetre artillery shells. Around half of that has been sent to Europe for redistribution to Ukraine, the newspaper said.
Asked about the report, an Israeli military spokesperson said only: “American equipment that was stored in Israel was transferred to the U.S. armed forces a few weeks ago upon their request.”
If such transfers have taken or will take place under the watch of conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who regained top office on Dec. 29, it could test the rapport he built with Russian President Vladimir Putin in previous terms.
Netanyahu has spoken about reviewing Israeli policy on the Ukraine-Russia war but has stopped short of pledging any direct supply of arms to Kyiv. Lapid, a centrist who served as premier for six months, was vocal in expressing solidarity with Ukraine.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel had no immediate comment on the New York Times report. Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk told Reuters by phone that he had “no idea” if the report was true. The Russian embassy declined comment.
While Israel has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has limited its assistance to Kyiv to humanitarian aid and protective gear.
The Israelis want to maintain a coordination hotline with Russia, set up in 2015, over their military strikes on suspected Iranian targets in Syria, where Moscow has a garrison. They are also mindful of the welfare of Russia’s big Jewish community.
Although the U.S. munitions stored in Israel are under its lock-and-key, “the Americans don’t need our permission to move them. These are American property,” David Ivry, a former director-general of Israel’s Defence Ministry, told Reuters.