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House approves $1B for Israel's Iron Dome missile system

House approves $1B for Israel's Iron Dome missile system
House lawmakers on Thursday approved a measure to replenish Israel's Iron Dome defense system following heavy fighting against Hamas in May. Pool file photo by Jack Guez/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved legislation to give Israel $1 billion to replenish its Iron Dome defense system of missiles it used last Spring during renewed fighting with Gaza militants.

The measure called the Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act passed Thursday with a vote of 420-9 with two lawmakers voting present.

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Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced the supplemental bill on Wednesday after it was removed from legislation earlier this week in order to pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government past the 2022 midterms after it met pushback from progressive Democrats.

In a statement following the vote, DeLauro said the United States is committed to a two-state solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace, and this legislation ensures that Israel will be able to defend itself from Hamas, an Iran-backed Palestinian militia that the U.S. State Department has designated a foreign terrorist organization.

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"This bill demonstrates that Congress' commitment to our friend and ally Israel is bipartisan and ironclad," she said. "It fulfills our moral imperative to protect the lives of innocent civilians and helps build the foundation of peace."

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The legislation makes the funds available to Israel until September of 2024 to procure missiles for its Iron Dome defense system that counters short-range rockets.

The U.S. push to fund the defense system follows fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas and other Gaza-based militants in May.

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The weeks of intensive fighting began with rockets fired from Gaza at Israel in response to the latter attempting to forcibly displace Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes.

The fighting resulted in the deaths of 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, and 12 Israelis.

The Israeli Defense Forces said nearly 4,400 rockets were fired at Israel with 680 either miss-firing or falling back into Gaza, a strip of Palestinian-controlled land that borders the western coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Of those that were successfully launched, 90% were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

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Israel has come under criticism for its two-week Operation Guardians of the Wall with human rights groups accusing it of having violated laws of war and potentially committing war crimes.

Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., one of a handful of progressive Democratics who railed against the funding when it was included in the previous bill, told lawmakers from the floor on Thursday that she will not support a measure "to enable war crimes and human rights abuses and violence."

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"We cannot be talking only about Israelis' need for safety at a time when Palestinians are living under a violent apartheid system and are dying from what Human Rights Watch has said are war crimes," she said. "We should also be talking about Palestinian need for security from Israeli attacks. We must be consistent in our commitment to human life. Period. Every one deserves to be safe there."

She framed the bill as replenishing missiles Israel used in a conflict "it manufactured."

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., abandoned his prepared remarks to respond to Tlaib and reject her characterization of Israel as an apartheid state.

"If you believe in human rights, if you believe in saving lives -- Israeli lives and Palestinian lives -- I say to my colleague who just besmirched our ally then you will support this legislation," he said, adding that to characterize Israel as an apartheid state is anti-Semitism.

"And I reject that," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also defended the bill Thursday, stating the Iron Dome system is purely defensive, co-developed by the United States and has saved thousands of lives.

"Passage of this bill reflects the great unity in Congress on a bipartisan and bicameral basis for Israel's security," she said Thursday from the floor. "Assistance to Israel is vital, because Israel's security is an imperative for America's security."

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Israel responded with gratitude to the lawmakers who voted in support of funding the Iron Dome.

"Thank you to members of the United States House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, for their overwhelming support for Israel and their commitment to its security," Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said via Twitter. "Those who try to challenge this support, received a winning answer today. The people of Israel thank the American people and their representatives for their strong friendship."

Yair Lapid, the Israeli foreign affairs minister, also said he was "grateful" for the bipartisan support, which "reaffirms the special relations between our two countries, rooted in shared values and strategic interests."

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