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1st May 2024, 14:26:21 UTC

U.S.-supplied weapons provided to the government of Israel have been used in serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and in a manner that is inconsistent with U.S. law and policy, according to Amnesty International USA. The organization demands an immediate suspension in the transfer of arms to the government of Israel.

In a new research briefing submitted to the U.S. government  as part of the National Security Memorandum on Safeguards and Accountability with Respect to Transferred Defense Articles and Defense Services (NSM-20) process, Amnesty International USA details civilian deaths and injuries with U.S.-made weapons, as well as other cases that highlight an overall pattern of unlawful attacks by Israeli forces. The briefing also details practices by Israeli forces inconsistent with best practices for mitigating civilian harm and provides clear examples of the misuse of defense articles, the commission of torture, and the use of unlawful lethal force. Lastly, the briefing also details the denial of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of Gaza.

“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 Amanda Klasing, National Director for Government Relations with Amnesty International USA. “The International Court of Justice found the risk of genocide in Gaza is plausible and ordered provisional measures. President 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 NSM-20 requires that the administration’s report to the U.S. Congress include an “assessment of any credible reports or allegations that defense articles and, as appropriate, defense services, have been used in a manner not consistent with international law, including international humanitarian law,” and not restrict the delivery of humanitarian aid. The reporting requirements to Congress on these provisions have a deadline of May 8, 2024.

Amnesty International USA cites a number of examples of violations of humanitarian law using U.S-made weapons, including:

• U.S.-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) used by the Israeli military in two deadly, unlawful airstrikes on homes full of civilians in the occupied Gaza Strip in October 2023 that killed 43 civilians–19 children, 14 women and 10 men. These air strikes were either direct attacks on civilians or civilian objects or indiscriminate attacks and should be investigated as war crimes.

• The use of white phosphorus in southern Lebanon by Israeli forces in in October 2023, in a manner inconsistent with international humanitarian law, which requires necessary precautions be taken to protect civilians. One attack on the town of Dhayra on October 16 must be investigated as a war crime because it was an indiscriminate attack that injured at least nine civilians and damaged civilian objects.

• Four Israeli strikes, three in December 2023, after the humanitarian pause ended, and one in January 2024, which killed at least 95 civilians, including 42 children, in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost governorate, and at a time when it was supposedly the “safest” area in the strip. The January incident included evidence of a GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, a precision guided weapon with a smaller warhead made in the U.S. by Boeing. In all four attacks, 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.

Additionally, Amnesty International USA detailed unlawful strikes by Israeli forces in the occupied Gaza Strip that killed and injured Palestinians where it was either unable to identify the make and origin of the weapons used or identified weapons that were not U.S.-made. These include an Israeli military strike on a group of seven journalists in south Lebanon on October 13, which killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured six others, likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime.

Amnesty International also outlines extensive documentation of practices by Israeli forces that are inconsistent with preventing and mitigating civilian harm. These include 24-hour mass evacuation notices, defective or no effective advanced warning with mass casualties, and leaflets ordering evacuation.

Lastly, as the NSM-20 requires that the administration’s report to the U.S. Congress include an assessment and analysis of whether the foreign government recipient has fully cooperated with United States Government-supported and international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in the area of conflict, Amnesty International USA outlines how humanitarian assistance has been consistently and arbitrarily denied, restricted, and impeded by the Israeli authorities.

Israel’s protracted policies and practices have been preventing a humanitarian scale up, and resulted in an engineered famine, as found by the International Court of Justice on March 28, 2024. The government of Israel’s obstructive practices include the continued closure of vital border crossings, including crossings into northern Gaza; rejections of aid items for entry based on arbitrary, opaque, and shifting justifications, including definitions of dual use; lengthy delays and unpredictable processes for the inspection of trucks; and denial of movement requests within Gaza. Worse yet, repeated attacks on aid workers, convoys, distributions, and humanitarian sites, including those submitted to the Israeli authorities as part of the humanitarian notification (“deconfliction”) process, have hampered relief efforts. Such exacerbated restrictions have gravely compounded a humanitarian crisis created by the unlawful blockade that Israel has been imposing on the occupied Gaza Strip since 2007, which is a form of collective punishment and a war crime.

“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 Klasing. “In order to follow U.S. laws and policies, the United States must immediately suspend any transfer of arms to the government of Israel.”