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US weapons shipments to Israel 'breach legal limits' say high-level US officials

May 10, 2024 at 8:31 pm

Israel’s attacks on Gaza and the movement of tanks, military personnel along the border continue in Gaza Strip on May 1, 2024. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

The Biden administration’s weapons shipments to Israel “breach legal limits”, former high-level US officials said ahead of the submission of a report by State Department to Congress about whether Israel is using US weapons in accordance with American and international laws, Anadolu Agency reports.

According to former US officials quoted by Washington Post on Friday, the US has been “selective in how it invokes international law” and “how it balances rights concerns with realpolitik”.

“Just from a legal perspective within US domestic law, there’s a much wider body of rules that is being ignored right now,” said Josh Paul, former director of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the State Department who resigned shortly after 7 October in protest of the US policy on Gaza.

“The arms are just continuing to flow,” Paul added.

The newspaper also cited a report by an independent panel of experts last month, assessing several thousand distinct incident reports from Gaza, revealing that Israeli army was acting with a “systematic disregard for international humanitarian law, with recurrent attacks launched despite foreseeable disproportionate harm to civilians and civilian objects”.

US weaponry was used in a significant number of these incidents, according to the report.

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Charles Blaha, former director of the State Department’s Office of Security and Human Rights between 2016 and 2023 and one of the contributors to the report, said: “When you look at those collapsed buildings where people are trapped underneath, the odds are that that death and destruction is being caused by a United States-supplied weapon.”

“When you allow a state to engage in actions that at least many people see as inconsistent with international humanitarian law … this has an impact,” Oona Hathaway, who previously served as special counsel to the US Defence Department, quoted as saying by Washington Post.

According to a 8 February  National Security Memorandum, NSM-20, signed by President Joe Biden, countries that receive US military assistance are required to give Washington “credible and reliable written assurances” that the arms will be used in compliance with “international human rights law and international humanitarian law”.

Israel submitted written assurances to the State Department in late March, but human rights groups said those assurances were not credible and urged the government to suspend arms transfers to Israel.

Some senior State Department officials also reportedly told Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, that Israel might be violating international law and Israel’s assurances that it submitted to the State Department regarding the use of US weapons are not “credible or reliable”.​​​​​​​

The memorandum requires the State Department to compile a report on whether it finds Israel’s assurances credible and send it to Congress by 8 May but the State Department announced that the submission of the report will be delayed.

“It will not be transmitted today … We expect to deliver it in the very near future, in the coming days,” State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, told reporters on Wednesday and several US media outlets said that the report will be submitted to Congress “as soon as Friday”.

State Department did not immediately response to Anadolu’s request for comment.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a 7 October attack by Hamas which killed about 1,200 people.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

More than 34,900 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, mostly women and children, and 78,514 others injured, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Over seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins, pushing 85 per cent of the enclave’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine, according to the UN.

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