US releases examination of Israel war crimes allegations

Washington has expressed “reasonable” concerns that West Jerusalem may have violated humanitarian law in its use of American weapons.

The US State Department has released a report that was critical of how Israel conducted its war against Hamas in Gaza, but stopped short of openly accusing West Jerusalem of any specific violations that would require Washington to halt the flow of weapons to its ally. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and its methods have faced increased scrutiny as Israel’s military operation in overcrowded Gaza stretches into its eighth month, resulting in the deaths of nearly 35,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians. In February, President Joe Biden ordered the Pentagon and the Departments of State to “obtain certain assurances” over Israel’s use of US military aid and report back to Congress. The findings of the report were released to the public on Friday.

The report claimed that the “nature of the conflict in Gaza makes it difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents,” and that Washington has yet to obtain “complete information to verify whether US defense articles” resulted in civilian deaths. “Nevertheless, given Israel’s significant reliance on US-made defense articles, it is reasonable to assess that defense articles… have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL [international human law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm,” the report added.

Furthermore, while Israel has allegedly “undertaken steps” to mitigate collateral damage, the “results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions as to whether the IDF is using them effectively in all cases,” the summary reads. Biden admitted earlier this week that at least some Palestinian civilians in Gaza were killed by US-made bombs – and has vowed to halt the supply of any weapons that Israel could use in a major military operation in the southern city of Rafah.

Although IDF tanks already rolled into Rafah on Monday, with Israeli troops securing parts of the city, Biden believes that Israel’s “limited” operation has yet to cross Washington’s red line. On Friday, Israel’s war cabinet approved “measured expansion” of the ground operation in Rafah, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising that West Jerusalem will continue its military campaign and “will fight with our fingernails” if the US halts in the supply of weapons.