Friday, May 24, 2024

Israel violating international and humanitarian law with US arms: Report

An independent American task force has informed the administration of President Joe Biden there is “compelling and credible evidence” that Israel’s use of American weapons violates a US national security memorandum demanding US arms be used in accordance with humanitarian law.

The report, viewed by Middle East Eye, was submitted to the US government on 19 April.

The authors found “a clear pattern of violations of international law, failures to apply civilian harm mitigation best practices, and restrictions of humanitarian assistance, by the Government of Israel and the IDF, often utilizing US provided arms”.

The report was filed as the State Department prepares an official assessment for Congress on Israel’s compliance with National Security Memorandum/NSM-20, signed by Biden in February, which calls for assurances from countries receiving US arms that those weapons are not being used in contravention of international law or international humanitarian law.

Israel submitted a written assurance to the US in March saying that it was using American-supplied weapons per international humanitarian law.

But that letter was not made available to the public and has raised eyebrows among some progressive members of Congress who have called on the Biden administration to restrict weapons transfers to Israel amid concerns over the civilian death toll in Gaza.

“In the face of mounting credible and deeply troubling reports and allegations that Israel has used US arms in ways that violate US and international law … we believe a failure to question, at minimum, the Benjamin Netanyahu government’s assurances, violates the very spirit of the NSM-20 process,” More than two dozen House Democrats said in a letter to Biden in April.

The independent task force has no official US government mandate and is co-chaired by former US official Josh Paul, former director in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney and associate professor at Rutgers University.

The task force also includes Charles Blaha, a former director in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Adil Haque, a professor and expert on international armed conflict; Wes J Bryant, a retired master sergeant in the US Air Force, and other experts and researchers,

The panel said their objective was to inform the US Departments of State and Defence as they prepare a final assessment for Congress slated for 8 May.

The panel noted it reviewed thousands of reports of Israeli violations of international law. It noted an Israeli strike on 9 October on Jabalia refugee camp that destroyed several multi-story buildings and killed at least 39 people which the UN said appeared to have no specific military objective.

It also cited several cases where Israeli soldiers have attacked humanitarian aid workers.

In February, an Israeli naval vessel attacked a UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees convoy. The following month, Israeli soldiers killed at least 23 Palestinians waiting for the distribution of food in Gaza City. And in April, Israel conducted three separate strikes that killed seven members of World Central Kitchen.

“The Task Force concludes that the incidents…are just the most easily identifiable among a clear pattern of violations of international law, failures to apply civilian harm mitigation best practices, and restrictions of humanitarian assistance, by the Government of Israel,” the report added.

The authors added that their findings raise “grave concerns” about the Biden administration’s compliance with both US and international law by providing Israel with arms transfers.

Despite mounting criticism of Israel’s offensive on Gaza, the Biden administration has continued to provide its ally with a steady stream of weapons. The Wall Street Journal reported in April that the White House was eyeing an additional $1bn weapons deal with Israel.

On Wednesday, the US Senate joined the House of Representatives in passing an aid bill that will provide $26bn in aid for Israel and Palestine, with $4bn set to replenish Israel’s missile defence system and roughly $9bn slated for humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza.

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