Israel has signed a deal to procure 25 more F-35 fighter jets from US defence giant Lockheed Martin, the country’s military announced on Tuesday (4 June).

The deal, worth a reported $3bn, will be entirely funded by US Foreign Military Financing (FMF). It sees the Israeli Air Force expand its fleet of F-35 stealth fighters to 75, or three squadrons.

The US’ willingness to supply the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) with weapons and military equipment has come under heavy criticism as the number of Palestinians killed by Israel’s troops surpasses 36,000.  

Earlier today (6 June), Israeli jets struck a UN school in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip – which the IDF claimed is a Hamas compound.

Local Gaza media said the warplanes fired three missiles at classrooms on the top floor of the school, killing at least 39 people.

Weapons experts also identified fragments of an SDB GBU-39, a US-made precision bomb, in the aftermath of an airstrike on Rafah which killed 45 people last week.

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Dead bodies are brought to the Al Aqa Martyrs hospital after Israeli airstrikes hit the UN-run school in the Nuseirat refugee camp in Deir Al Balah, Gaza, on 6 June. Credit: Ashraf Amra / Getty.

Despite President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemning Israel’s heavy bombing of civilians in Gaza, the US has only once paused weapons shipments to its closest ally in the Middle East.

The relationship between Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu may have been strained recently over the Israeli Prime Minister’s refusal to implement a three-part ceasefire proposal put forward by Washington.

But this latest F-35 deal has reassured the Israelis that Biden’s arm remains firmly draped around their shoulder – as emphasised by other members of Netanyahu’s war cabinet.

“The procurement of the third F-35 squadron reflects the strength of the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States”, said Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Defence Minister. “At a time when some of our adversaries aim to undermine our ties with our greatest ally, we only further strengthen our alliance. This sends a powerful message to our enemies across the region”.

Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, said it was “pleased by the Israeli government’s decision to procure 25 additional F-35s”.