Israel's use of weapons in Gaza may have violated international law - US

Saturday, May 11, 2024 - The US has alleged that Israel might have violated international humanitarian law using weapons during its military operation in Gaza, its strongest criticism to date of its age long ally, Israel.

The Biden said that due to the chaos of the war in Gaza it could not verify specific instances where use of those weapons might have been involved in alleged breaches of international law.

The assessment came in a 46-page unclassified State Department report to Congress required under a new National Security Memorandum (NSM) that President Joe Biden issued in early February.

The US and Israel are increasingly at odds over Israel's plans to strike Rafah, a move Washington has repeatedly warned against.

The Biden administration has already put a hold on one package of arms in a major policy shift and said the U.S. was reviewing others even as it reiterated long-term support for Israel.

The State Department's report included contradictions: It listed numerous credible reports of civilian harm and said Israel did not at first cooperate with Washington to boost humanitarian assistance to the enclave. But in each instance it said it could not make a definitive assessment whether any breaches of law had occurred.

"Given Israel's significant reliance on U.S.-made defense articles, it is reasonable to assess that defense articles covered under NSM-20 have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm," the State Department said in the report.

"Israel has not shared complete information to verify whether U.S. defense articles covered under NSM-20 were specifically used in actions that have been alleged as violations of IHL or IHRL in Gaza, or in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the period of the report," it said.

Because of that, the administration said it still finds credible Israel's assurances that it is using U.S. weapons in accordance with international law.

According to the report released Friday, in the period after Oct. 7 Israel “did not fully cooperate” with U.S. and other international efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. But it said this did not amount to a breach of a U.S law that blocks the provision of arms to countries that restrict U.S. humanitarian aid.

It said Israel had acted to improve aid delivery since Biden warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a call early last month that Washington would withhold some arms supplies if the humanitarian situation did not improve.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s seven-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

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