Sunday, May 19, 2024

US lawmakers urge Biden to reconsider Israel arms transfer

More than three dozen members of the US Congress have written to President Joe Biden of their “shared concern and outrage” over the Israeli strike on a humanitarian aid convoy in Gaza and urged him to reconsider the recent authorisation of a weapons transfer to Israel.

In a letter released on Friday, 40 lawmakers said the administration should “withhold this and any future offensive arms transfers” until there is a full US investigation into an Israeli air strike on Monday that killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen (WCK), one of whom was a dual US-Canadian citizen.

“If this strike is found to have violated US or international law, we urge you to continue withholding these transfers until those responsible are held accountable,” said the letter, which was signed by progressive Democrats as well as former House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We also urge you to withhold these transfers if Israel fails to sufficiently mitigate harm to innocent civilians in Gaza, including aid workers, and if it fails to facilitate – or arbitrarily denies or restricts – the transport and delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Biden has been facing growing challenges from within his own Democratic Party over his failure to call for an immediate ceasefire and the continuing flow of military aid to Israel.

Biden signalled to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a tense call on Thursday that US policy could change if Israel did not take steps to limit civilian casualties in Gaza and address the spiralling humanitarian crisis there.

After the phone conversation, Israel announced steps it was taking to increase entry points for humanitarian aid deliveries to get into the Palestinian enclave, as well as acceptance for more aid transiting from Jordan.

Regarding the WCK aid convoy deaths, Israeli government said it would conduct its own investigation.

The White House will not conduct an independent or separate investigation, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said this week, even after the WCK organisation urged that there be third-party investigations.

The lawmakers called on the Biden administration to do its own probe into the deadly incident.

“We strongly urge your administration to conduct a thorough investigation into this air strike to determine how the aid convoy could have been mistakenly targeted despite coordinating their movements with the Israeli military and travelling in clearly marked vehicles,” the letter said, adding that US efforts to bring more aid into the enclave are insufficient to meet the “extraordinary need on the ground”.

The letter also urged the administration to place conditions on any future military aid to Israel to ensure it is used in accordance with US law.

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