photo taken in dusk, featuring black outlines of soldiers in front of yellow-orange sky, and turret of artillery
The US has limited supplies of ammunition after transferring crucial artillery shells to Ukraine earlier this year.Amir Levy/Getty Images
  • Israel's response to a surprise attack by Gaza militants could increase demand for US artillery shells.
  • Earlier this year, the US took shells from its stockpile in Israel and sent them to Ukraine.
  • The US may now have to decide which ally receives limited supplies of its ammunition.

The outbreak of another war in the Middle East could force the United States to make tough decisions about which ally gets its already-limited supplies of ammunition.

After militants from Gaza launched a surprise attack on Israel early Saturday, killing dozens and wounding hundreds more, the Biden administration pledged steadfast support.

"Over the coming days the Department of Defense will work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself and protect civilians from indiscriminate violence and terrorism," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

No country has received as much military support from Washington as Israel has over the decades. This year alone the country is set to receive a total of $3.8 billion in security assistance.

But Russia's 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine has, until now, shifted attention — and weapons — away from the Middle East.

In January, The New York Times reported that the US was drawing artillery shells from a "vast but little-known stockpile" of the ammunition, located within Israel itself, and providing them to Ukraine. Washington has already transferred to Kyiv more than 2 million rounds of crucial 155mm artillery shells, running through its own domestic stockpiles in order to help push back Russian troops.

Last month, the Pentagon said it intends to produce 100,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition every 30 days by 2025, up from just 14,000 a month earlier this year. Even so, that alone may not be enough to supply Ukraine's defense, its military going through up to 6,000 rounds each day.

According to US and Israeli officials who spoke to the Times, the plan was to provide Ukraine some 300,000 rounds of the NATO-standard ammunition. At the time, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces dismissed questions about the transfer as "American business," per CNN.

But Israel now may not be so blasé.

Already the country has launched retaliatory attacks on Gaza, killing nearly 200 people, according the Palestinian Health Ministry. Those attacks appear to have been conducted from the air. However, in its last major military conflict with Hamas the Israeli military also pummeled the territory with artillery.

In that 2014 war, the IDF fired at least 32,000 artillery shells at Gaza, Haaretz reported.

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