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How Israel Has Used US Weapons to Commit War Crimes

Jadallah Northern Gaza lies in ruins after months of bombardments. Credit: WFP/Ali

NEW YORK, May 2 2024 (IPS) - The report from Amnesty International USA comes ahead of a May 8 deadline for the Biden administration to certify that Israel is complying with international and domestic laws.

With just over a week until the deadline for the Biden administration to certify that Israel’s use of U.S.-supplied weapons is adhering to domestic and international law, Amnesty International USA submitted a report to the federal government detailing how American bombs and other weapons have been used in Israeli attacks that could constitute war crimes.

The White House, said the human rights group, must inform Congress that Israel is violating humanitarian laws by May 8 as part of the National Security Memorandum on Safeguards and Accountability with Respect to Transferred Defense Articles and Defense Services (NSM-20) process, and “must immediately suspend the transfer of arms to the Israeli government.”

Amnesty’s report focuses on several attacks on civilian infrastructure in which Israel used bombs and other weapons made by U.S. companies including Boeing, as well as practices used by the Israeli government and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since they began bombarding Gaza in October in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack.

Four of the IDF attacks took place in Rafah, where Israel is reportedly preparing a ground offensive after forcibly displacing more than 1 million Palestinians to the southern city and carrying out airstrikes for months.

The four strikes in December and January killed at least 95 civilians, including 42 children, despite the U.S. and Israel’s repeated claims that the IDF is targeting Hamas fighters.

“The evidence is clear and overwhelming: the government of Israel is using U.S.-made weapons in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and in a manner that is inconsistent with U.S. law and policy.”

“In all four attacks,” reported Amnesty, “there was no indication that the residential buildings hit could be considered legitimate military objectives or that people in the buildings were military targets, raising concerns that these strikes were direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects and must therefore be investigated as war crimes.”

The strikes, which included one on a five-story building inhabited by the Nofal family, were carried out with GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs—made in the U.S. by Boeing.

“The evidence is clear and overwhelming: the government of Israel is using U.S.-made weapons in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and in a manner that is inconsistent with U.S. law and policy,” said Amanda Klasing, national director for government relations with Amnesty International USA. “In order to follow U.S. laws and policies, the United States must immediately suspend any transfer of arms to the government of Israel.”

Boeing was also the manufacturer of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) that were used in October 2023 in “two deadly, unlawful airstrikes on homes full of Palestinian civilians,” according to satellite imagery examined by Amnesty’s weapons experts and remote sensing analysts.

Those attacks killed 43 civilians, nearly half of whom were children.

Other patterns in Israel’s assault on Gaza, including its use of a 24-hour mass evacuation notice early on in its current escalation, ordering more than 1.1 million people in Gaza City and northern Gaza to go to the southern part of the enclave; its use of indiscriminate attacks with both U.S.- and Israel-made weapons; its use of arbitrary “administrative detention”; and its denial of humanitarian assistance, all show that the Biden administration’s continued material support for the IDF violates U.S. and international law, Amnesty said.

As progressives in the U.S. Congress have warned, Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2378-1) bars the federal government from providing military aid to any country that is blocking U.S. humanitarian aid.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s announcement on October 9, 2023 of a “complete siege on Gaza” with “no electricity, no food, no water, no gas” allowed in has deprived the enclave of equipment needed to provide healthcare to tens of thousands of people wounded in Israel’s attacks, as well as pregnant women and newborns, the elderly, and people facing chronic illnesses.

It has also placed Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians at risk of a “government-engineered famine,” said Amnesty, with dozens of people, including children, already having starved to death.

“It’s shocking that the Biden administration continues to hold that the government of Israel is not violating international humanitarian law with U.S.-provided weapons when our research shows otherwise and international law experts disagree,” said Klasing.

“The International Court of Justice found the risk of genocide in Gaza is plausible and ordered provisional measures. President [Joe] Biden must end U.S. complicity with the government of Israel’s grave violations of international law and immediately suspend the transfer of weapons to the government of Israel.”

The report comes days after Biden signed a military aid package including $17 billion more for the IDF, after approving multiple weapons transfers to Israel since October.

Ahead of the May 8 NSM-20 deadline, a coalition of more than 90 lawyers—including at least 20 who work in the Biden administration—is preparing to send a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland warning that Israel’s practices in Gaza likely violate the Arms Export Control Act, the Leahy Laws, and the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit disproportionate attacks on civilians.

While spokespeople for the Biden administration have repeatedly said publicly that the White House does not accept allegations that Israel has violated international humanitarian law—and made the U.S. complicit—the letter is just the latest sign of widening dissent within the government regarding Gaza.

Senior U.S. officials recently told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an internal memo that Israel lacks credibility as it continues to claim it is adhering international law.

“This is a moment where the U.S. government is violating its own laws and policy,” a Department of Justice staffer who signed the new letter, told Politico. “The administration may be seeing silence or only a handful of resignations, but they are really not aware of the magnitude of discontent and dissent among the rank and file.”

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

Source: Common Dreams

IPS UN Bureau


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