US senator questions whether State Dept properly assessing Israel conduct

By Thomson Reuters Apr 28, 2024 | 8:56 AM

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic senator on Sunday questioned whether the Biden administration was properly assessing whether Israel was complying with international law, following a Reuters report that some senior U.S. officials did not find that country’s assurances credible.

“This reporting casts serious doubt on the integrity of the process in the Biden administration for reviewing whether the Netanyahu government is complying with international law in Gaza,” Senator Chris Van Hollen said in a statement.

The Reuters report found that some senior State Department officials have advised Secretary of State Antony Blinken that they do not find “credible or reliable” Israel’s assurances that it is using U.S.-supplied weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Blinken must tell Congress by May 8 whether he finds Israel’s assurances credible. According to an internal State Department memo, several bureaus within the agency did not find Israel’s statements credible, citing military actions that raised questions about potential violations of international humanitarian law.

Van Hollen said the Reuters report had found that the recommendations of those bureaus “were swept aside for political convenience.”

“The determination regarding compliance with international law is one of fact and law. The facts and law should not be ignored to achieve a pre-determined policy outcome. Our credibility is on the line,” he said.

Van Hollen and some other Democratic lawmakers have pressed President Joe Biden to impose conditions on military assistance to pressure Jerusalem to limit civilian deaths in the Gaza conflict. So far, the administration has not done so.

The war, now in its seventh month, was triggered by an attack by Hamas militants that left approximately 1,200 people in Israel dead and where 253 hostages were taken.

Israel has responded with a military operation that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health authorities. The war has displaced most of the 2.3 million people who called the area home and has laid to waste much of the densely populated enclave.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Mark Porter)