Ukraine Or Israel? US Faces Tough Choice Over Simultaneous Ammo Supplies To ‘War-Torn’ Allies

With Israel ravaging the Gaza Strip after being stuck after a surprise attack by Hamas and the Ukraine war refusing to end, there are concerns that the US would be forced to make difficult choices about which ally receives its limited ammunition supplies.

The Ukrainian battle has been dominated by artillery. But almost 19 months later, there is still a substantial discrepancy between the number of shells Ukraine needs and the rate at which US-led NATO allies can produce and deliver them. The supply of artillery shells has been a sticking point for the Western countries grappling to ramp up production.

Ukrainian MP Oleksandra Ustinova previously told CNN that up to 6,000 shells are being fired daily by Ukrainian forces, but the military intends to fire more than 10,000. On its part, the US announced in mid-September that it plans to increase the monthly production of 155-millimeter artillery shells over the coming years to 100,000 in 2025.

With a key US ally, there are two concerns that were overwhelmingly expressed on social media by military watchers and netizens alike: One, with Israel declaring war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the ammo supply to Ukraine may be jeopardized, and two, the ammunition that belonged to Israel has been directed to Ukraine and may lead to trouble for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) if a shortage is created.

Even as the US studied the developments of the war unfolding, tough questions were posed to the Pentagon about how it would proceed to supply two of its allies in the face of war. The US, according to reports, has rushed to deliver munition just a day after the IDF launched its offensive on the Gaza Strip.

Although Israel has easily been the biggest beneficiary of US military aid over the years, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has diverted attention and military resources from the Middle East.

The US has redeployed some of its cutting-edge military assets to the region only now after feeling the heat from Iran’s military expansion and the aggressive maneuvers conducted by Russia in Syria. Now, with the declaration of war by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, the focus is back to the region.

Aid To Ukraine At Expense Of Israel?

Some reports floating around on social media said that Hamas allegedly refused a ceasefire proposed to them, citing information that Israel had sent 80 percent of the artillery ammunition to Ukraine, and they have this knowledge that now Israel wants to “buy time.”

EurAsian Times could not independently verify this information.

These speculations were based on previous reports about Washington diverting ammo supplies to Ukraine. Some unnamed US and Israeli officials told the media in January this year that American ammunition stockpiled in Israel was sent to Ukraine, and more was expected to follow.

At the time, a US official told CNN that “some” of the 300,000 155-millimeter shells the US and Israel agreed to send had already been transferred. When enquired about the transfer of ammunition, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Richard Hecht said that since the US owned the ammo, his country had nothing to do with its movement.

The United States has also redirected a large shipment of Iranian ammunition bound for its proxies in the region to Ukraine. The US military announced last week that it had sent Ukraine more than 1 million rounds of Iranian ammunition that had been seized last year.

However, with Israel now at war, there are speculations that the need for ammunition could grow. Since the US is the biggest ammunition supplier to Israel, all eyes are now on Washington to see how the country will navigate the situation and balance the military supplies to Kyiv and Tel Aviv.

While Israel mainly launched massive retaliatory strikes on the Gaza settlement using its fighter jets, the use of artillery hasn’t been eliminated. The Israeli military bombarded the region with artillery during its last significant military engagement with Hamas. Previous reports said the IDF fired over 32,000 artillery shells at Gaza during the conflict in 2014.

Concerns about the conflict escalating and the need for more ammunition were further fueled by the exchange of fire with Hezbollah. The Israeli military responded with armed drones after Hezbollah launched dozens of rockets and mortars at three Israeli positions in a contested area near the border.

At the time of writing this report, some OSINT groups noted that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were moving the M109A5 “Doher” 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzers with M548 “Alfa” Ammunition Support Vehicles tonight in Northern Israel towards the Lebanon border. These claims could not be verified.

However, there is compelling evidence that suggests that the situation could escalate between the IDF and Hezbollah. Tens of thousands of rockets are available with Hezbollah, which Iran allegedly supplies. Hezbollah has avoided past outbreaks of Israeli-Hamas conflict since its deadly 2006 war with Israel but is coming off more aggressively this time.

On October 9, several military watchers sounded the alarm that the war in Ukraine may prove to be very expensive for Israel. EurAsian Times reached out to military experts to understand whether the Pentagon would have to choose between supplying two of its closest allies.

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, told EurAsian Times, “There is always the possibility that Israel could run low on ammunition, but there is a fundamental difference between what’s happening in Ukraine and what’s happening in Israel.

Israel Iron Dome System
File Image: Iron Dome System

“Ukraine uses a lot of ammunition to achieve very few results; the Israelis simply don’t expend ammunition that way, and a large percentage of their ammunition is used smartly because they invest a lot in intel and know the target, and they strike it very precisely.

“They don’t have time to keep lobbing 100-200 shells. Israel is a very tiny country that cannot afford static warfare like Ukraine can. Ammo shortage is not going to affect Israel right now. In Ukraine, the usage is against a peer competitor, many times its size.

“I don’t think it is a Ukraine or Israel dilemma right now because Israel will not use that many artillery shells, which are generally relatively inaccurate. Besides that, Gaza is very densely populated. The problem comes when Israel starts expecting a long campaign and redundancy. In that case, a problem for Ukraine may come up. However, Israel’s production capacity is fairly decent.”

Notably, in the recent conflict, neither the US nor Israel saw the attack coming by Hamas. Israel, on its part, was especially caught completely off-guard as Hamas breached the borders, and a gun battle started in earnest. However, it is believed that the conflict is unlikely to last a long time as the militants do not have the resources to sustain it.

A military expert who did not want to be named told EurAsian Times, “Israel has now put Gaza under a complete siege, which means that there will be no food, no fuel, and no electricity allowed for the enclave. This will cut down on the war-fighting capabilities of Hamas.

“This is in addition to their arsenal’s limited arms and ammunition. The IDF is a mammoth military force that is bombing everything in Gaza. There is only so much the Hamas can do on their own. If Hezbollah opens another front, the IDF seems ready to push back. It has enough resources to fight both.”

After declaring war, Israel’s Security Cabinet authorized “significant military steps.” Although the following actions are not specified, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the military appear to have broad authority due to the proclamation. The question then comes down to this: How many days will this conflict last, and whether Washington could aid Israel without compromising the military aid to Kyiv?

This was answered by Patrick Donahoe (retired), the former head of the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, who told EurAsian Times, “The US has significant stockpiles on hand, but the usage rate in Ukraine has sounded a wake-up call to increase production, not only to backfill what we’ve transferred but to generate the production capability we might require if we were to become embroiled in a large scale conventional fight. The US is in the process of increasing its 155mm artillery ammunition capability.

With that increase, we will have the production capacity in place to backfill the rounds going to Ukraine. As for Israel, they have a significant stock on hand for the contingencies they are faced with in Gaza. It is a false choice to say either it’s Ukraine OR Israel. The West can do both.”

The Pentagon is reviewing its stockpiles to determine what else can be immediately supplied to support its friend in the three-day war with Hamas after the White House announced that it has already started sending Israel urgently required ammunition and military hardware.