Report: State Department set to confirm Israel not breaking international law in Gaza

Overdue filing, which could be sent as early as Friday, will use critical language to describe suspected violations, but won’t find Israel misusing arms or blocking aid, Axios says

A man looks on as thick, black smoke rises from a fire in a building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 10, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
A man looks on as thick, black smoke rises from a fire in a building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 10, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to submit a report to Congress as early as Friday on Israel’s conduct in Gaza that criticizes the IDF’s conduct but stops short of concluding it has violated international law, according to a report presented by Axios on Thursday.

The report from US news site Axios Friday, citing three officials, claimed that the submission will include cases in which international humanitarian law was suspected of being broken, describing them using “very critical terms.”

However, the report will not conclude that Israel took actions that could disqualify it from US military aid, as required by a directive issued by US President Joe Biden in February requiring that Congress be notified if arms recipients are violating international humanitarian law.

The report was due to be filed by May 8; the State Department has insisted the submission is imminent even as it has blown the deadline.

A national security memorandum, NSM-20, issued by Biden in February, required the department to report to Congress by May 8 on the credibility of Israel’s written assurances that its use of US weapons does not violate US or international law, and that the provision of humanitarian aid is not being obstructed.

According to Axios, the State Department is also reviewing the use of weapons by six other countries engaged in different armed conflicts under the directive.

Illustrative – IDF tanks are positioned in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on May 9, 2024. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The order does not place any tangible new conditions on foreign assistance, given that recipients have always been required to use the aid in a manner consistent with the laws of war; the White House has acknowledged that the memo was the result of pressure from progressive lawmakers who believe Israel might not be abiding by these terms.

The three unnamed officials told Axios the State Department report would note that some of the suspected violations in Gaza were still being probed, but would not conclude that Israel is in breach of international law.

It will also reportedly adopt findings sent to Blinken in recent weeks from Gaza humanitarian envoy David Satterfield and US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew confirming that Israel is not violating international law in its war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the terror group’s October 7 massacre.

The two officials recommended in their memo to Blinken that he confirm Israel is not intentionally hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis has brewed amid the ongoing fighting, Axios reported. The memo noted that Israel had been hamstringing aid, but made changes following a call between Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) and US ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, are seen at an Arrow 3 battery in Israel, April 14, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Blinken’s report is set to come hot on the heels of a White House decision to delay the transfer of 2,000- and 500-pound bombs over concerns that the IDF could use them in densely populated Rafah, as it has in other parts of Gaza. On Wednesday, Biden threatened that more arms shipments would be frozen if Israel launched a planned offensive in the Strip’s southernmost city.

Israel says it must enter Rafah in order to eliminate the remaining Hamas battalions in the city.

The war between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7 when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, killing nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 252.

The ensuing Israeli offensive against Hamas has killed over 34,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. This figure cannot be independently verified and does not differentiate between civilians and members of terror groups. Israel says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas operatives within Gaza since the beginning of the war and 1,000 in Israeli territory on October 7.

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