By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
NEVATIM AIR BASE, Israel — Before you begin to wander about and explore this air base in southeastern Israel, they offer up a clear tutorial.
If you hear the siren, you have 90 seconds to run to the shelter to avoid the incoming. This base, the hub for U.S. military aid flowing to Israel, is in military jargon a “high-target area.”
On the day Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited here, however, there was a different kind of incoming —one the Israelis were cheering and not warning about: a load of U.S. munitions and military supplies for the already launched retaliation against Hamas into Gaza.
It will not be here long. The U.S incoming becomes the Israeli outgoing. Non-stop service, in a matter of days — if not hours, officials said.
The ammunition and other supplies will “enable significant strikes and preparations for additional scenarios” as Israeli forces prepare for a wide-ranging offensive against Hamas, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari said.
And while Israeli officials are still deciding how to attack Hamas beyond vowing new techniques, there is zero talk about what to do once they occupy Gaza, or thoughts about an exit plan.
This is, after all, the real Gaza — not where Israel trains soldiers on techniques at its Urban Warfare Training Center, referred to internally by the name of “mini-Gaza.”
Israel has some 170,000 troops typically on active duty and has called up some 360,000 reservists for the war — three-fourths of its estimated capacity, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Hamas has 15,000 to 20,000 fighters, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates. Israel puts the number higher, at up to 30,000 fighters.
Over the roar of a U.S .military cargo plane — dropping off the second load on munitions and supplies – Austin told the Israelis, “we will continue to do what is necessary to assure that you have what you need.”
A senior Israeli defense official in Tel Aviv told reporters that a first flight in from the U.S. had already given Israel small diameter bombs as well as interceptor missiles for its Iron Dome air defense system. That assistance has been put into the fight immediately, he said.
Nevatim Air Base, technically known as Air Force Base 28, is located southeast of Be’er Sheva, the largest city in the Negev desert of Israel and one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the country. It was built as a rough runway in 1947 for the Sherut Avir, the air wing of the Haganah
Since 2003 the base has gradually received more squadrons of F-16s. A third runway was built in the mid-2000s decade as part of a project to accommodate the transfer of military activities previously taking place at Ben Gurion Airport and now it is home to F-35 fighters.
The word “nevatim” means “sprouts,” in Hebrew — and that certainly is what has happened vis-a-vis weapons and materials appearing for the Israelis on these runways.
Giving military aid to Israel is not something new. Between 1951 and 2022, Israel received $225.2 billion in US military aid, adjusted for inflation, which is approximately 71% of its aid from all sources.
“U.S. Secretary of Defense General Lloyd Austin, when you said that you stand with Israel, you showed up. You stand here with us. Mr. Secretary, you have shown us what it means to be an ally, to be a friend, to be a brother,” Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said earlier in the day.
“In fact, today we will receive the second aircraft carrying essential munition to the IDF,” he said.
Since then multiple shipments have arrived and the flow has no stop date at present. Included were JDAM kits — essentially a tail fin and navigation kit that turns a “dumb” bomb into a “smart” bomb that can be guided to a target.
“So make no mistake: The United States will make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself, and Israel has a right to protect its people,” Austin said.
Much like Ukraine, atop Israel’s request list is “critical ammunition.” But unlike Ukraine — where the U.S has placed restrictions on the use of some war materials provided — Israel has a free hand.
“We did not put any preconditions on Israel when it comes to using our security assistance,” Sabrina Singh, the deputy Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters.
“We certainly expect Israel, as with any ally or partner, to uphold the law of war. It should be very clear that Hamas is the one putting Palestinians or those in Gaza at great risk. I mean, they are putting their command-and-control units inside hospitals, inside areas where there are innocent civilians,” she said.
“So, the fact that they’ve set up command centers at these hospitals just shows the brutality that they’re willing to engage on, that they’re willing to use civilians as a way to mask their operations but also to see them as casualties.”
Later, she said, “we did not put preconditions on Israel when it came to providing security assistance. We feel that Israel, and democracies like us should follow the law of war and follow the law of war in protecting innocent civilians and directly targeting where these known terrorists are.”
As for the use of U.S. supplied weapons, there may be many blind eyes.
Israel has historically displayed a hostile attitude toward journalists covering its conflicts. It is not likely that Israel will permit reporters to embed with its ground force.
The U.S. may know, but is expected to remain silent.
“We had a long talk about that (Israel’s invasion plans), and what alternatives there are. Our military is talking to theirs, but I’m not going to get into that, either,” President Biden said.
Said Austin: “ I’ll leave it to Israel to talk about its potential plans and its approach to conducting operations.
And from Gallant: “As to their actions, future actions of IDF — I will stay confidential for good reasons.”