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US Says Israel Violated ‘International Humanitarian Law’

Howvever, Washington stopped short of a “determinative finding of wrongdoing” because the review did not find specific instances of violations, reports Asian Lite News

The United States has stated that it was “reasonable to assess” that Israel has “violated international humanitarian law” during its ongoing war in Gaza, The Hill reported.

However, Washington stopped short of a “determinative finding of wrongdoing” because the review did not find specific instances of violations.

A highly anticipated report from the State Department, released Friday (local time), looked into whether Israel violated international humanitarian law, and described “sufficient reported incidents to raise serious concerns” about how Israeli forces have carried out the war against Hamas in Gaza.

The report notes that 34,700 Palestinians have been killed amid the war, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. While the United Nations and aid groups say the majority of those killed are women and children, Israel claims that half of those numbers are Hamas fighters.

The US government said “it could not independently verify” the figures.

“Given Israel’s significant reliance on US-made defence articles, it is reasonable to assess that defence articles covered under [the national security memorandum] have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its [international humanitarian law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm,” the report stated.

US criticises Israel's conduct of war; says it may have violated 'international humanitarian law'

Still, US officials acknowledged it was “difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents,” which appeared to prevent language for a definitive finding that Israel has violated any laws in the report.

According to The Hill, the report drew on assessments from multiple US agencies, including bureaus in the State Department, the Department of Defence, and the Intelligence Community.

The intelligence findings further raise concern about Israel’s war conduct, saying that Israel’s security forces “have inflicted harm on civilians in military or security operations, potentially using US-provided equipment.”

While the Intelligence Community assessment said that there’s “no indication” that Israel directly targeted civilians, it “assesses that Israel could do more to avoid civilian harm, however.”

The State Department said it was difficult to reach conclusive findings on individual incidents because of the lack of personnel on the ground in Gaza.

Officials also said Israel has not shared complete information to verify whether US weapons have been used in violation of international humanitarian law in Gaza, the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

Notably, this report comes after the Biden administration paused the delivery of heavy bombs to Israel and vowed to hold more offensive weapons if Israeli forces launch a major operation in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering, The Hill reported.

Biden’s pause on the heavy bombs, his criticism of Israel’s military campaign and his threat to withhold more weapons in the event of a Rafah invasion come amid sweeping college protests and frustration with the war from some Democrats and his left flank.

After pausing the transfer of more than 3,000 heavy bombs to Israel, the US President warned in an interview with CNN that the US could hold back more arms transfers if Israel launched a major offensive into Rafah, the southern Gazan city believed to be the last holdout for Hamas but sheltering more than 1 million displaced Palestinians.

On the other hand, the United Nations and humanitarian aid groups have accused Israel of slowing the delivery of aid shipments into Gaza, which is facing a severe hunger crisis and a famine in the northern part of the territory. Israel now controls all three major checkpoints that facilitate aid into the strip.

The officials also noted in the report that Israel has “repeatedly struck” humanitarian aid workers, including seven workers from the charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) in April, despite attempts to avoid those casualties. More than 250 aid workers have died in Gaza.

The State Department review also found credible reports of “Israeli airstrikes impacting civilians and civilian objects unrelated to humanitarian operations that have raised questions about Israel’s compliance with its legal obligations.”

Israel has divided Gaza into 300 different zones to better assess the level of civilians in each area, but the US State Department memo questioned the efficacy of the system. It also raised concerns about the adequacy of Israel’s other methods to prevent civilian casualties, including weapon selection for certain strikes or attacks, advanced warnings and target determination.

“While Israel has the knowledge, experience, and tools to implement best practices for mitigating civilian harm in its military operations,” the report says, “the results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions as to whether [Israel] is using them effectively in all cases.

US criticises Israel's conduct of war; says it may have violated 'international humanitarian law'

Israel launched its war against Hamas following the massive attack on October 7, which killed over 1200 people and took 250 as hostages, with around 130 still in captivity.

Biden has supported Israel’s determination to defeat Hamas, but has grown increasingly frustrated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prosecution of the war. The president has come under pressure from Democrats and protests across the US decrying a staggering Palestinian civilian death toll and an appalling humanitarian crisis, as reported by The Hill.

The efforts to secure a deal between Hamas and Israel to secure the release of hostages and implement a six-week cease-fire fizzled out this week amid discussions in Cairo. (ANI)

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