US suggests Israel may have violated international law

A US report has said Israel's offensives in Gaza may have broken international law while using US weapons, but evidence is lacking

The Biden administration said that the US has not been shared with "complete information" by Israel (photo: @POTUS/X)
The Biden administration said that the US has not been shared with "complete information" by Israel (photo: @POTUS/X)


The administration of US President Joe Biden has said in a report that it is "reasonable to assess" that US weapons supplied to Israel may have been used in violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).

The Biden administration said on Friday, 10 May in an overdue report drafted by the State Department and delivered to Congress that the US has not been shared with "complete information" by Israel "to verify whether US defence articles" covered by the report, which assessed the use of US-supplied weapons by Israel during the period from October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel to late-April, "were specifically used in actions that have been alleged as violations of IHL or (international human rights law) in Gaza" as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

"However, certain Israeli-operated systems are entirely US-origin," the report said, "and are likely to have been involved in incidents that raise concerns about Israel's IHL compliance."

The report, known as National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20) which Biden ordered in February, went on to say that "it is difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents. Nevertheless, given Israel's significant reliance on US-made defence articles, it is reasonable to assess that defence articles covered under NSM-20 have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm".

"While Israel has the knowledge, experience, and tools to implement best practices for mitigating civilian harm in its military operations, the results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions as to whether the (Israel Defense Forces) is using them effectively in all cases," the report said.

The report added that it assessed that all recipient countries of US arms transfer involved in the report, including Israel, made "credible and reliable" assurances in March that US arms would be used in ways consistent with international law, thus justifying the continued flow of US weapons.

The report was mandated for the Secretary of State by Biden in a February presidential memorandum, in which the President pledged that his administration would "provide periodic Congressional reports to enable meaningful oversight" to the transfer of US arms to foreign governments. The report was reportedly pushed by some Democratic lawmakers to press Israel on the humane treatment of civilians in Gaza.

The State Department missed the 8 May deadline for the submission of the report to Congress. The department has been under pressure in recent days to explain the delay.

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Published: 11 May 2024, 10:38 AM