The U.S. military has sought to hire a merchant ship to deliver ammunition to Israel this month, tender documents show, but the Pentagon said the shipment was not linked to the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
A Pentagon spokesman said the ammunition was for a U.S. stockpile in Israel. The U.S. military pre-positions stockpiles in some countries in case it needs supplies at short notice.
In the tender documents, the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as "ammunition" on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.
Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said he would not comment on shipping routes for security reasons but confirmed a shipment of ammunition to Israel was planned.
"The delivery of ammunition is to a pre-positioned U.S. munitions stockpile in Israel in accordance with a congressionally authorized 1990 agreement between the U.S. and Israel," Ryder said.
"This previously scheduled shipment is routine and not in support of the current situation in Gaza."
The shipment originated in the United States, Ryder said. He provided no further details on the intended cargo.
A "hazardous material" designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators but gives no other details.
The request for the ship was made on Dec. 31, with the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than Jan. 25 and the second at the end of the month.
The tender for the vessel follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December.
A German shipping firm which won that tender confirmed the order when contacted by Reuters but declined to comment further.
In September, the U.S. Congress approved the sale of 1,000 bunker-buster missiles to Israel. The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world.
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