The Australian government has granted eight permits to send defence-related equipment to Israel since the Gaza conflict erupted, but said they related to items requiring repair by Israeli manufacturers before being returned.

After facing months of criticism from the Greens over the issue, the government has given its most detailed account yet of Israel-bound equipment.

It also hit back at what it labelled as “misinformation” about the alleged supply of arms and ammunition to Israel.

Officials told a Senate estimates committee hearing that eight defence permits for Israel had been approved since the 7 October attacks, six more than previously known.

They said the two earlier permits were for a piece of Australian defence force equipment that would return to Australia and “a non‑lethal item” that was being returned to Israel.

The Labor senator Jenny McAllister, representing the defence minister at the hearing, said: “I want to be very clear that these [six] new export permits are for items used by Australian defence and law enforcement and will return to Australia.”

McAllister told the hearing that some Australian defence equipment was “manufactured and repaired by companies based in Israel”.

A deputy secretary at the Department of Defence, Hugh Jeffrey, said some items “require an export permit to be returned to the destination country for repair or overhaul and then return back to Australia after that”.

The Greens have actively campaigned on the issue, repeatedly calling on the Albanese government to “stop the two-way arms trade with the state of Israel” and accusing it of being “complicit in the genocide”.

Is Australia exporting weapons to Israel? – video

The party said in a statement in April: “Just published data from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade shows that in February 2024 alone Australia directly exported over $1.5m in ‘arms and ammunition’ to Israel.”

But Department of Defence officials rejected that characterisation on Wednesday, noting that the data published by Dfat was based on what exporters marked as the most relevant category.

“We have assured ourselves that what has been publicly put forward in the media is in fact incorrect and that it is not arms and ammunition,” a first assistant secretary, David Nockels, said.

“The most recent figure … $1.5m is for a single item – that is a return-to-Australia-item that falls under the category of what we’ve just been talking about in that it supports Australian defence capability.”

The assistant foreign minister, Tim Watts, said on Facebook: “For months, the Greens have been making false claims about ‘arms and ammunition’ exports to Israel. In a lengthy discussion at Senate estimates today, those claims were comprehensively debunked.”

McAllister said the government continued to “calibrate” its approach to reflect the “changing and quite challenging” circumstances in the Middle East.

She said the government was “also scrutinising pre-existing export permits to Israel to ensure that they align with this calibrated approach”.

Israel’s defence ministry on Tuesday signed a $3bn agreement with the US to acquire 25 more F-35 fighter aircraft.

Officials confirmed that Australian businesses continued to contribute to the supply chain for items used in F-35 aircraft, but said these parts were “all exported to a central repository in the United States”.

“I think the question of whether or not the F-35 is being employed in the crisis in Israel is not material to the question of whether or not we grant an export permit,” Jeffrey told the Senate committee.

That prompted the Greens senator David Shoebridge to tell the Senate committee: “So you export them to a central pool in the US and you wash your hands of any responsibility about them then being used in the genocide in Gaza?”

Jeffrey said he “wouldn’t describe it that way”, adding: “We contribute to a global supply chain, that supply chain is directed by the United States.”

Shoebridge asked whether F-35 aircraft containing some Australian parts were currently being used by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza, prompting Jeffrey to reply: “We can’t speak for the IDF and how it engages in force deployment.”

Shoebridge fired back: “Because you haven’t looked, because you don’t ask, because there’s a moral vacuum at the heart of our export weapons scheme.”

The government has repeatedly said that Australia has not supplied weapons or ammunition to Israel for at least the past five years, but it has faced criticism about a lack of transparency about the specific items covered by export permits.

When contacted for a response to the misinformation claims, Shoebridge said the $1.5m data related to “a weapon that was being sent to an Israeli arms dealer for further work”.

Shoebridge said it was “incomprehensible that Labor refuses to stop this two-way arms trade”.

The government has called for a ceasefire since December.