US Says Israel May Have Violated International Law – But Stops Short Of Full Conclusion

The U.S. said on Friday that Israel may have violated international law in its war against Hamas in Gaza, but stopped short of issuing a full conclusion on the matter.

Israel has been conducting military operations against Hamas in Gaza since Oct. 7, in part with the help of American military aid. The State Department issued a report to Congress on Friday that it is “reasonable to assess” that Israel may have used U.S. weapons in a matter “inconsistent” with international law, but has not seen enough evidence to come to that determination fully, according to a copy obtained by Just Security

“Given the nature of the conflict in Gaza, with Hamas seeking to hide behind civilian populations and infrastructure and expose them to Israeli military action, as well as the lack of USG personnel on the ground in Gaza, it is difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents,” the State Department said in its report on Friday. “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 [International Humanitarian Law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.”


“In any conflict involving foreign partners, it is often difficult to make swift, definitive assessments or determinations on whether specific U.S. defense articles or services have been used in a manner not consistent with international law,” the report reads. “However, there have been sufficient reported incidents to raise serious concerns.”

The report covers Israel’s military activities starting Oct. 7, the day which Hamas attacked Israel and killed roughly 1,200 people, prompting a massive counteroffensive. President Joe Biden ordered that the report be created in a National Security Memorandum in February.

While the report casts criticisms against Israel’s military, it also notes that Israel made assurances to the U.S. in March that American weapons were being used in accordance with international law — assurances which were found to be “credible and reliable.” The State Department said Israel has begun addressing the violations outlined in the report, and no determinations were made that the nation obstructed or hamstrung the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to the State Department.

The Biden administration and the Israeli government have been increasingly at odds with each other as to how the war against Hamas in Gaza should be conducted. The Biden administration is urging Israel to limit its military operations and avoid a ground invasion into Rafah — the southernmost region of Gaza — citing the impact it could have on civilians in the region.

The Biden administration delayed a shipment of military equipment to Israel last week over fears that the country would use them in a Rafah operation. The report did not find any instances that would justify halting military aid at a larger scope.

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