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US ships Israel more bombs amid 'kill zone' revelations

US ships Israel more bombs amid 'kill zone' revelations

A bombshell new report should force Biden to reassess Israel’s human rights compliance, experts say

Reporting | QiOSK

Israeli forces in Gaza have created invisible “kill zones” near their operations in Gaza where soldiers are under orders to fire on anyone who is not Israeli military personnel, according to an explosive new report in Haaretz, a prominent Israeli newspaper.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officials say the “kill zone” provisions only apply in cases in which a person is approaching Israeli forces, but commanders on the ground have interpreted the term “approaching” in disparate ways, leading some to demand that their troops fire when anyone moves into the zones, according to Haaretz.

The report provides crucial context for a recent video published by Al Jazeera in which Israeli forces attacked four Palestinians in civilian clothing who were not holding weapons. Drone footage shows an Israeli bomb killing two of the men in an initial strike before attacking the other two one after the other. All four men died in the incident.

“This kind of indiscriminate killing is illegal and falls far short of any gold standard for civilian harm,” argued Brianna Rosen, a senior fellow at Just Security.

The news casts significant doubt on Israel’s accounting of the number of Hamas militants killed during its operations in Gaza. Israel claims that more than one in four of the over 32,000 Gazans killed since October were members of Hamas, but the rules for making such a designation are loose. “In practice, a terrorist is anyone the IDF has killed in the areas in which its forces operate,” a reserve officer who served in Gaza told Haaretz.

The revelation comes just days after U.S. officials authorized over $2 billion in weapons sales to Israel, including fighter jets and bombs allegedly used to kill large numbers of civilians in Gaza. The news further undermines the U.S. assessment that Israeli forces are conducting their Gaza campaign in compliance with international law despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

Haaretz’s reporting should force the Biden administration to revisit this stance, especially given the White House’s stated intent to enforce U.S. law banning weapons transfers to states that will likely use them to violate the laws of war, argued John Ramming Chappell, a fellow at the Center for Civilians in Conflict.

“When a person's status is in doubt, international humanitarian law requires combatants to presume that that person is a civilian,” Ramming Chappell told RS. “This new reporting from Haaretz seems to confirm yet again that the Israeli military is not taking sufficient measures to protect civilians.”

“This kind of report should also factor into the Biden administration's decision making as it considers whether weapons transfers to Israel may aggravate the risk of violations of international law,” he said, adding that “unfortunately, it seems that the Biden administration's actions are inconsistent” with its own policies.

The U.S. is not the only Western state debating arms sales to Israel amid its war in Gaza. The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Canada have stopped all arms transfers to Israel, and British lawyers have reportedly advised their government that Tel Aviv is violating the laws of war in its Gaza campaign — an assessment that should force Britain to cut off all arms sales to Israel.

In decisions to cut off weapons, many states have cited the ongoing case at the International Court of Justice over whether Israel’s actions in Gaza amount to genocide. By continuing to send arms to Israel, governments risk opening themselves to legal liability for facilitating alleged war crimes.

President Joe Biden has defended arms sales to Israel despite occasional admissions that Tel Aviv’s campaign has been “indiscriminate”. Despite substantial evidence of war crimes, Biden has used every authority at his disposal to surge weapons transfers to Israel.

Gen. C.Q. Brown, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly said last week that Israel has “not received everything it’s asked for” from the U.S. Brown’s office did not respond to a request for clarification about which arms transfers Washington has declined and why.

The Biden administration’s commitment to defending Israel’s war in Gaza has drawn significant concern within the U.S. government, according to Annelle Sheline, who recently resigned from the State Department’s human rights office in protest of Washington’s Gaza policy. (Sheline previously worked for the Quincy Institute, which publishes Responsible Statecraft.)

“Across the federal government, employees like me have tried for months to influence policy, both internally and, when that failed, publicly,” Sheline wrote in a CNN editorial. “We are appalled by the administration’s flagrant disregard for American laws that prohibit the US from providing assistance to foreign militaries that engage in gross human rights violations or that restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid.”

Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, on October 12, 2023. (Anas Mohammad/ Shutterstock)

Reporting | QiOSK
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