Israel’s Use of US Weapons May Have Violated International Law

The US says Israel might have used American-supplied weapons in violation of international humanitarian law during conflicts in Gaza.

The State Department considers it likely that these weapons were employed in manners not aligning with Israel’s commitments. However, the US lacks comprehensive data for a definitive assessment, though it will not halt weapon shipments.

The report was presented to Congress last Friday after a delay. The review, mandated by the White House, examined the use of US arms by Israel and six other nations in conflicts since the previous year.

The findings were delivered to Congress last Friday, following a postponement. Commissioned by the White House, the review scrutinized the use of US-supplied weapons by Israel and six other nations in conflicts beginning from the previous year.

The review criticized certain Israeli actions in Gaza but did not conclusively determine that they violated international law.

The report acknowledged the severe military challenges Israel faced against Hamas in Gaza. It also noted Israel’s assurances about legally using US weapons as credible and reliable.

The report pointed out difficulties in identifying legitimate targets due to Hamas’s tactics of using civilian areas for military purposes and employing civilians as human shields.

Despite Israel’s heavy reliance on US weaponry, it likely used these arms in ways that did not meet its obligations under international humanitarian law or best practices for minimizing civilian casualties.

It remarked that Israel has the capability and know-how to reduce civilian harm, yet the high civilian casualties suggest these practices might not be effectively utilized.

The United Nations and various humanitarian bodies have characterized Israeli measures to reduce civilian casualties as inconsistent and inadequate.

The State Department reported initial non-cooperation from Israel in maximizing humanitarian aid to Gaza, though the situation has improved.

The current assessment does not find that the Israeli government is blocking or restricting US humanitarian aid delivery.

David Satterfield, contributing to the report and a former US ambassador to Turkey, highlighted the uniqueness of this conflict and the ongoing scrutiny of Israeli actions by the US.

He emphasized the complexity of the situation and the effort to deliver a straightforward yet sound judgment.

The release of the report followed a threat by US President Joe Biden to withhold specific munitions from Israel if it attacked Rafah, a major Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Biden’s warning about crossing a “red line” in Rafah and stated Israel’s readiness to act independently if needed.

Since the conflict’s escalation, over 80,000 people have fled Rafah amid intense military activity and the massing of Israeli tanks near populous areas.

At the beginning of the military operation, Israeli forces secured and closed the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, while the UN declared the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel too perilous for its staff and trucks.

In response to a Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, which resulted in approximately 1,200 deaths and 252 hostages, Israel initiated a military offensive in Gaza aimed at dismantling Hamas.

Since the start of the campaign, over 34,900 deaths have been reported in Gaza, according to the region’s Hamas-controlled health ministry.