Saturday, May 25th, 2024

US review of arms transfers to Israel: assessing credibility amid conflict

In a key report submitted to Congress, the Biden administration conveyed its assessment of Israel’s use of US weapons during the conflict with Hamas in Gaza, The Times of Israel reports.

The report released on Friday emphasizes the importance of ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law while addressing the complexities of the ongoing conflict.

While accepting Israel’s assurances regarding the use of US-supplied weapons, the Biden administration considered them “credible and credible”. However, the report also highlights instances where Israel’s actions since the Hamas attack on 7 October were deemed “inconsistent” with international humanitarian law obligations. Despite these concerns, the Administration noted the lack of complete information to verify whether Israeli forces violated these obligations.

The release of the report follows President Biden’s directive to review US weapons use by Israel, amid growing pressure from progressive Democratic lawmakers and independent Senator Bernie Sanders to restrict arms shipments. The directive also mandates an investigation into Israel’s facilitation of humanitarian aid distribution in Gaza, a region deeply affected by the conflict.

As tensions escalated, the administration tried to strike a delicate balance between supporting Israel and allaying concerns over potential violations of humanitarian law. This balancing act was evident in recent actions, including temporarily halting bomb shipments amid fears of Israeli aggression and threatening to cut off arms supplies if Israel advances into densely populated areas of Gaza.

Apart from Israel, the report includes several other countries including Colombia, Iraq, Jerusalem, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Ukraine. According to The Times of Israel, each country provided assurances regarding the use of US defense articles, which were reviewed by the State Department for credibility and reliability.

In its assessment of Israel, the report underlined the seriousness of the conflict, which began with an October 7 attack by Hamas that left several dead and the kidnapping of hostages. The report condemned Hamas for disregarding international law, citing credible reports of atrocities committed by the group.

Turning to Israel’s military response, the report highlighted significant losses of life in Gaza, citing figures from both Hamas-controlled sources and Israeli estimates. Although the exact number of casualties remained disputed, the report stressed the need for impartial verification and distinction between civilian and combatant casualties.

Despite Israel’s reliance on US-made defense items, the report noted a lack of complete information regarding their specific use in alleged violations of international humanitarian law. Nevertheless, it was considered reasonable to assess that such violations may have occurred, leading to calls for increased investigation and accountability.

The report raised concerns over civilian infrastructure and densely populated areas, questioning the proportionality of damage relative to military objectives. Additionally, according to The Times of Israel, it highlighted Israel’s alleged lack of full cooperation with international efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza, although this was not a violation of US law.

Efforts to address these concerns were noted, including Israel’s internal investigation into alleged violations and steps taken to improve aid delivery following diplomatic pressure from the Biden administration. However, progressive Democrats expressed disappointment at the report’s findings, regretting its perceived ambiguity and calling for more stringent limits on arms transfers to Israel.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, a vocal critic of Israel’s military campaign, criticized the report for its contradictory nature and urged a more principled approach based on facts and law. While acknowledging an uphill battle in Congress, he warned of the potential consequences of failing to hold Israel accountable for its actions.

In contrast, Republican Representative Michael McCaul condemned the review as politically motivated and affirmed support for Israel’s right to defend itself. He argued against any steps that could undermine Israel’s security, stressing the need for unwavering solidarity with the US ally.

As the debate over US arms transfers to Israel continues, the Biden administration faces the challenge of balancing strategic interests with humanitarian concerns. The release of the report highlights the complexities of pursuing foreign policy amid conflict and highlights ongoing efforts to uphold international norms and principles of accountability, The Times of Israel reported.

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