US says it was reasonable to assess Israel used US weapons inconsistent with humanitarian law

By Thomson Reuters May 10, 2024 | 4:55 PM

By Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration on Friday said it was reasonable to assess that Israel has used U.S.-supplied weapons in instances that are “inconsistent” with its international humanitarian law obligations.

However, the administration said it still found credible and reliable Israel’s assurances that it will use U.S. weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law because it did not have complete information to verify that U.S. weapons were used in specific actions that were alleged to be breaches of international humanitarian law.

U.S. State Department was asked to deliver to Congress under a new National Security Memorandum (NSM) that President Joe Biden issued in early February, whether it finds credible Israel’s assurances that its use of U.S. weapons does not violate U.S. or international law.

“Israel has not shared complete information to verify whether U.S. defense articles covered under NSM-20 were specifically used in actions that have been alleged as violations of IHL or IHRL in Gaza, or in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the period of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a report to Congress.

“Nevertheless, given Israel’s significant reliance on U.S.-made defense articles, it is reasonable to assess that defense articles covered under NSM-20 have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.”

Israel’s military conduct has come under increasing scrutiny as its forces have killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities, most of them women and children.

U.S. officials at the State Department have been divided over the issue. Reuters reported in late April that officials in at least four bureaus inside the agency have raised serious concerns over Israel’s conduct in Gaza, laying out specific examples on the country might be in breach of the law.

Rights group Amnesty International in a report also in late April said U.S.-supplied weapons provided to Israel have been used in ‘serious violations” of international humanitarian and human rights law, detailing specific cases of civilian deaths and injuries and examples of use of unlawful lethal force.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Diane Craft)