US Report Finds Israel Violated International Law in Gaza Conflict

A US State Department report finds Israel likely violated international humanitarian law during its Gaza conflict with Hamas. The report cites inadequate measures to mitigate civilian harm, including aid workers, despite recommending continued defense assistance.

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Muthana Al-Najjar
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US Report Finds Israel Violated International Law in Gaza Conflict

US Report Finds Israel Violated International Law in Gaza Conflict

A recent US State Department report has found that Israel likely violated international humanitarian law during its conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The report, shared with Congress on Friday, cites credible reports of Israel's failure to take adequate measures to mitigate harm to civilians, including humanitarian aid workers.

Why this matters: The findings of this report have significant implications for the US-Israel relationship and may impact future defense assistance to Israel. Additionally, the report's conclusions may influence international efforts to hold nations accountable for violating humanitarian law in conflict zones.

The report states that "it is reasonable to assess that" Israel has violated "obligations or... established best practices for mitigating civilian harm." It notes that Israel did not adequately coordinate with humanitarian aid groups, leading to risks for aid workers and facilities. The report also cites credible reports of abuse of captive Palestinians. Despite these findings, the report recommends against cutting defense assistance to Israel.

The report stems from a national security memo issued by President Joe Biden in February, seeking an assessment of Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law. The conflict in Gaza has resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilians being displaced and thrown into a humanitarian crisis. However, the report also notes that Hamas initiated the conflict and has embedded itself among civilians, using them as human shields.

Reactions to the report have been mixed. Progressives are demanding that President Biden limit arms transfers to Israel, while Republicans are criticizing him for going too far. Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen said the report provides "clear, independent evidence" that the Israeli government has not been forthright with the Biden administration. Republican Sen. James Risch of Idaho accused Biden of seeking to placate progressives at the expense of a close ally.

The report comes as tensions between the US and Israel have escalated over Israel's ongoing precision strikes against Rafah, a city in Gaza. The Biden administration has threatened to suspend certain weapons shipments if the targeted offensive turns into a full-scale invasion. President Biden has suggested that Israel has yet to share a strategic post-war plan or details on how it plans to deal with the trade-off between greater civilian casualties and greater risk for IDF soldiers.

The State Department report highlights the complex challenges Israel faces in the densely populated urban setting of Gaza, where Hamas has a history of embedding itself within the civilian population. While the IDF has taken steps to implement its international humanitarian law obligations, the report finds reasonable evidence that US-provided weapons were used in instances that violated these obligations, although there is no direct indication of Israel intentionally targeting civilians.

Key Takeaways

  • US State Department report finds Israel likely violated international humanitarian law in Gaza conflict.
  • Report cites inadequate measures to mitigate harm to civilians and humanitarian aid workers.
  • Findings may impact US-Israel relationship and future defense assistance to Israel.
  • Report recommends against cutting defense assistance to Israel despite findings.
  • Reactions to report are mixed, with progressives calling for arms transfer limits and Republicans criticizing Biden.