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Democrats want proof that Israel isn't using US weapons to violate international law

More than two dozen House Democrats are calling on Biden to show what assurances Israel gave Washington about whether its complying with international law
US President Joe Biden joins Israel's Prime Minister for the start of the Israeli war cabinet meeting, in Tel Aviv on 18 October 2023.
US President Joe Biden joins Israel's prime minister for the start of the Israeli war cabinet meeting, in Tel Aviv, on 18 October 2023 (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

More than two dozen House Democrats, including the co-chair for US President Joe Biden's reelection campaign, have sent a letter to the Biden administration calling for a thorough investigation into how it concluded that Israel was not using American weapons in violation of international law.

Biden issued a national security memorandum in February, which instructed his administration to seek assurances from countries receiving US arms that those weapons are not being used in contravention of international law or international humanitarian law.

If these assurances were not provided, arms sales to that country would be suspended.

In March, Israel sent a letter to the administration offering the assurances that the administration was seeking. However, that letter was not made available to the public.

"In the face of mounting credible and deeply troubling reports and allegations that Israel has used US arms in ways that violate US and international law ... we believe a failure to question, at minimum, the Netanyahu government’s assurances, violates the very spirit of the NSM-20 process," said the letter, first reported by The Intercept.

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The letter was signed by a number of prominent progressive lawmakers, including Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. It was also signed by Veronica Escobar, the national co-chair for Biden's 2024 reelection campaign.

It called on the administration to provide a full breakdown of how it conducted its assessment of Israel's activities in Gaza, "including whether the use of US-origin weapons has been in accordance with US best practices, or international law, or has violated any human rights".

The letter also asks the administration whether it has made any assessments as to whether the issuance of foreign military sales to Israel after Israel's war on Gaza began were in compliance with international law. The Democrats also want to know whether Israel's restriction of humanitarian assistance to Gaza would trigger a US law that could suspend arms sales to the country.

The lawmakers have given the administration until 1 May 2024 to respond to their questions.

'Israel isn't complying with international law'

Israel's war on Gaza began in October after Hamas led an attack on southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 200 people hostage. Israel responded with full force, launching a bombing campaign followed by a ground invasion that has targeted much of Gaza's civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, mosques, and UN shelters.

So far, Israeli forces have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children, in what rights groups, UN experts, and several countries say is a genocide being committed by Israel against the residents of Gaza.

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The Biden administration's immediate reaction to the war was to provide Israel with diplomatic and military backing by fast-tracking arms shipments to the country as well as blocking UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

When speaking to reporters, Biden officials have repeatedly said that they have not yet made any conclusions as to whether Israel is violating international humanitarian law or international law in general.

However, Middle East Eye spoke to several professors of international law, who all said there is overwhelming evidence that Israel is in violation of international humanitarian law in its conduct in Gaza.

"No, Israel is not complying with international law in Gaza. Israel has unlawfully impeded humanitarian relief, and there is substantial evidence that it has unlawfully used starvation of civilians as a method of warfare," Adil Haque, a professor of law at Rutgers University in the US, previously told MEE.

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