State Department reviewing reports of civilian harm by Israeli forces in Gaza

WASHINGTON — The United States is reviewing reports that Israel has harmed civilians in its war in Gaza under a set of guidelines aimed at ensuring countries receiving US arms conduct military operations in line with international humanitarian law, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller says.

“We do seek to thoroughly assess reports of civilian harm by authorized recipients of US-provided defense articles around the world,” Miller says at a press briefing, adding that a process under the State Department’s Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance (CHIRG) is assessing incidents in the current conflict.

CHIRG was established in August last year, just weeks before Palestinian terror group Hamas killed some 1,200 people and took 253 hostages during a devastating attack in southern Israel on October 7. In response, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza aimed at toppling Hamas and returning the hostages. According to Hamas health authorities, more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 68,000 wounded in the Israeli military campaign, a figure that doesn’t differentiate between combatants and civilians.

The guidance sets out a process by which State Department officials investigate specific incidents where civilians may have been harmed by US weapons.

Miller does not specify when the CHIRG process was initiated or say how many incidents were being reviewed. But a source familiar with the process says the department is looking at least 50 reported incidents of civilian harm.

“That process is not intended to function as a rapid response mechanism,” Miller says.

“Rather, it is designed to systematically assess civilian harm incidents and develop appropriate policy responses to reduce the risk of such incidents recurring in the future and to drive partners to conduct military operations in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

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