Biden administration says ‘reasonable to assess’ Israel’s use of US weapons in Gaza in violation of international law



CNN

The The Biden administration said Friday It is reasonable to assume that US weapons have been used by Israeli forces Gaza In ways that do not “contradict” international humanitarian law but stop short of officially claiming that Israel has violated the law.

The Report was Drafted by the State Department He noted that investigations into possible violations were ongoing but that the United States did not have “complete information” to verify whether US weapons were “specifically used” in alleged violations of international humanitarian law.

“Given the nature of the conflict in Gaza, where Hamas seeks to hide behind civilians and infrastructure to expose them to Israeli military action, as well as the absence of USG personnel in Gaza, it is difficult to assess or draw conclusions. Findings from individual incidents. Nevertheless, because Israel relies on US-made defense articles, under NSM-20 “It is reasonable to assess that the security articles in force have been used by the Israeli security forces inconsistently with its IHL obligations or with established best practices since October 7. harm to civilians,” the report said.

This report covers the outbreak period War with Hamas Between October 7 and late April, Israel could not be found to have blocked humanitarian aid to Gaza in violation of US law.

Although the statement did not find Israel in violation of either provision of the memorandum, it was strongly critical of the toll of Israel’s military campaign. The report’s findings mark another stark moment in U.S.-Israeli relations the same week President Joe Biden He threatened to restrict the transfer of arms If Israel launches a major attack on Rafah.

Nevertheless, the final finding that Israel’s commitments under the national security memorandum are “credible and credible” has already raised scrutiny among some lawmakers and angered human rights and humanitarian organizations.

The statement did not mandate any action by the Israeli government, and it did not prompt any policy change. The administration has largely avoided restricting military aid to Israel, but in a significant shift ahead of the report’s release, Biden announced in an interview with CNN this week that he would restrict it if Israel continued a major offensive in Gaza City. Transfer of certain offensive weapons to Israel.

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High-stakes reporting is categorized and Sent to Capitol Hill Friday afternoon. The administration had to make a decision on those two issues under a February national security memo that Biden released under pressure from Democratic lawmakers. It is the first time the US government has had to assess Israel’s conduct in the seven months of its war with Hamas in Gaza, fueled by the terrorist group’s brutal attacks that have killed more than 34,000 people. Coastal area destroyed.

Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who was the driving force behind the creation of the national security memo, expressed disappointment at the report.

“The administration dodged all the hard questions about making a real decision,” he told reporters Friday evening. “I think what they’re trying to do is make it clear that they understand how bad the situation is, but they don’t want to take any steps to hold the Netanyahu government accountable for what’s going on.”

The Maryland Democrat said the report was “not intended to provide a snapshot in time” and accused the administration of taking Israel’s pledges “at face value” despite investigations by human rights groups finding violations of the law.

However, a senior State Department official said this is always retrospective and processes are underway to evaluate current operations. There is no time frame for any decisions to be made under those processes.

“In any conflict involving foreign partners, it is often difficult to make quick, definitive assessments or determinations about whether specific US defense articles or services have been used in a manner consistent with international law,” the report notes.

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“However, enough incidents have been reported to raise serious concerns,” it said.

“While Israel has the knowledge, experience and tools to implement best practices to reduce civilian harm in its military operations, the results on the ground, including the high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions about whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases,” the report said.

According to a senior State Department official, the report package is a useful tool for the Biden administration to go to the Israeli government to obtain information and urge behavioral changes. The report will be shared with the Israeli government, the official said.

Biden administration officials have for months called on Israel to limit the civilian death toll and provide more aid to Gaza. Regarding humanitarian aid, the statement said the US government “is deeply concerned about Israel’s actions and inaction since October 7, which have significantly contributed to the steady and predictable delivery of much-needed aid, and overall reach to Palestine. Civilians – although improved – are not enough.

However, it says, “they do not currently assess that the Government of Israel is interdicting or otherwise restricting the transit or distribution of US humanitarian assistance within the meaning of section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act.” Restricts assistance.

The report calls the “impact of Israel’s military operations on humanitarian actors” a particular area of ​​concern, citing a series of incidents including Deadly strike World Central Kitchen Helpline.

Following that strike last month, Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israel must do more to address the humanitarian situation or face a change in US policy. In recent weeks, U.S. officials have said Israel has taken important steps following that conversation, but has more to do. However, humanitarian aid access has once again collapsed following the launch of “limited” Israeli military operations in Rafah, where millions of Palestinians have fled.

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The report was the subject of intense debate throughout the administration for months. Human rights organizations have assessed Israel’s military campaign as a violation of humanitarian law.

Late last month, Amnesty International assessed that US-provided arms to Israel had been used “in grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and in a manner contrary to US law and policy”.

An Amnesty International official said on Friday, “This statement sounds like the international version of ‘thoughts and prayers’: admitting there is a problem, but doing nothing meaningful to stop the loss of life.”

“Despite President Biden’s vague comments earlier this week, his administration today made its position loud and clear: When the U.S. government deems an actor an adversary is violating international law, it is quick to point fingers and take swift action, but holds the government of Israel above the law. , Israeli “Despite overwhelming evidence admitting that the forces are violating international law and killing Palestinian civilians with American weapons at the expense of American taxpayers,” said Amanda Glassing, Amnesty International USA’s National Director of Government Relations and Advocacy.

Van Hollen said Friday that it is “not credible that the US government has less information than organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam.”

A senior State Department official said he could not speak to the standards for assessments made by those organizations, but said the U.S. government process was very diligent and considered any accountability measures undertaken by the Israeli government.

The president admitted to CNN that “civilians were killed” as a result of US-supplied bombs. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Thursday that Biden was talking about the “tragic loss of civilian life in this conflict,” which is not a legal determination under international humanitarian law.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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