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State Dept: No evidence Israel violating laws with US weapons

State Dept: No evidence Israel violating laws with US weapons

Spokesman says Tel Aviv in compliance with recent directive in war conduct, provision of humanitarian assistance.

Reporting | QiOSK

The State Department said on Monday that it has found no evidence that Israel is violating a recent directive that recipients of U.S. military aid comply with international human rights law.

In February, partly due to pressure over support for Israel’s war on Gaza, the Biden administration issued a national security memo that required any country receiving military aid from Washington while participating in an active armed conflict, to issue “credible and reliable written assurances” that they will use weapons funded by the U.S. in accordance with international law, and that they “the recipient country will facilitate and not arbitrarily deny, restrict, or otherwise impede, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance and United States Government-supported international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.”

Sunday was the deadline for Israel, along with the six other countries deemed to meet the criteria — Colombia, Iraq, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Ukraine — to issue these assurances.

“For these seven countries (...) we have received written assurances that are required in the memo,” State Department spokesman Matt Miller said during a press briefing on Monday. “In each case, these assurances were made by a credible, high-level official in the partner government who has the ability and authority to make decisions and commitments about the issues at the heart of the assurances.”

“We've had ongoing assessments of Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law,” Miller added. “We have not found them to be in violation, either when it comes to the conduct of the war or the provision of humanitarian assistance. We view those assurances through that ongoing work we have done.”

The announcement came shortly after the U.S. abstained from a resolution that demands an immediate ceasefire in Gaza — the first sign of public disagreement between Washington and Tel Aviv.

The Biden administration will now have 90 days to provide Congress with a report on whether the Israeli government has abided by its assurances.

This determination by the administration comes despite recent opposition from progressives in Congress to rule that the Israeli government’s assurances were credible.

“The current circumstances on the ground in Gaza, the many statements made by the President and other senior Administration officials, and the recent IPC assessment that:‘famine is imminent' – make it abundantly clear that Netanyahu’s government is not doing nearly enough to allow aid to reach starving and otherwise desperate people in Gaza,” 17 senators wrote the White House on March 22. “As a result, we believe it would be inconsistent with the letter and spirit of NSM-20 to find that assurances made by the Netanyahu Government meet the required ‘credible and reliable’ standard at this time. Such a determination would also establish an unacceptable precedent for the application of NSM-20 in other situations around the world.”

The letter’s signatories included Sens. Chris van Hollen (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

Six House Democrats made a similar case in a letter sent on March 23. “[T]he Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has restricted the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza by placing onerous burdens on the oversight of aid, severely limiting entry points for aid delivery, and arbitrarily preventing food, medicine, and other supplies from entering Gaza,” wrote Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

“Given the catastrophic and devolving humanitarian situation in Gaza, we urge you to enforce the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act (Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act) and, as required by that law, make clear to the Israeli government that so long as Israel continues to restrict the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, the continued provision of U.S. security assistance to Israel would constitute a violation of existing U.S. law and must be restricted.”

The determinations match with assessments made with leading humanitarian organizations and human rights groups.

Miller maintained that the current assessment was part of an ongoing process that “requires a fact-intensive analysis of relevant factors related to international humanitarian law,” but that “as of yet, we have not made a conclusion that Israel is in violation of international humanitarian law."

Reports last week suggested that officials at the State Department and USAID had expressed “deep skepticism” over ambassador to Israel Jack Lew’s assertion that Israel’s claims of compliance with international law were credible.

Photo credit: Anas Mohammed/ Shutterstock

Reporting | QiOSK
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