U.S. report says it's 'reasonable to assess' that Israel has violated humanitarian law (2024)

Smoke rises over southern Gaza Strip after an Israeli airstrike on May 7. Amir Levy/Getty Images hide caption

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Amir Levy/Getty Images

Smoke rises over southern Gaza Strip after an Israeli airstrike on May 7.

Amir Levy/Getty Images

A U.S. State Department report said Friday it was "reasonable to assess" that Israel has violated international humanitarian law while carrying out military operations in Gaza. But the report stopped short of drawing any final or sweeping conclusions about Israeli conduct in the war against Hamas.

The Biden administration voluntarily undertook this review of Israel and six other countries receiving U.S. weapons. While the administration is facing criticism at home and abroad, this report does not require it to take any specific actions.

The report reflects an administration that's become increasingly critical of Israel and frustrated with the way it's handling the war, though President Biden insists he still supports Israel and its aim of defeating Hamas in Gaza.

The report looked at two key questions: whether Israel has violated international law while using U.S. weapons, and whether Israel is restricting humanitarian aid.

On the first question, the report said: "It is reasonable to assess that [U.S.] defense articles ... have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its [International Humanitarian Law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm."

The State Department findings cited multiple examples where large numbers of Palestinian civilians were killed in Israeli airstrikes. The reports said these instances raised serious concerns, but the U.S. did not have enough evidence to reach definitive conclusions.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials, adding that about two-thirds were women and children. Israel, meanwhile, has said it has killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters in Gaza.

On the question of humanitarian aid for Gaza, the report stated that Israel initially did not cooperate with the U.S. and international aid groups to let in humanitarian aid and thus "contributed significantly" to the lack of aid to the Palestinian people.

But that has changed over time, the report added.

"We do not currently assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance," it said.

However, aid groups say that incoming assistance has all but halted this week after Israeli troops took over the Rafah border crossing along Gaza's southern frontier with Egypt.

The Biden administration announced this week that the U.S. was withholding a weapons shipment to Israel consisting of more than 3,000 large bombs. And in an interview this week, Biden suggested he could pause the delivery of additional weapons as well.

The U.S. has been sending large quantities of weapons to Israel for decades, and ramped up deliveries after the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 that ignited the war.

The withholding of a single shipment of weapons is unlikely to have any impact on Israeli operations in Gaza, though it signals the administration's sense that Israel should take a different approach.

Red lines and Rafah

Biden and other top U.S. officials say they support Israel's goal of defeating Hamas in Rafah, its last stronghold, where it is believed to have several thousand fighters.

But the U.S. does not want to see a full-fledged assault on the city, similar to elsewhere in Gaza, which led to so many civilian casualties.

The U.S. says it has been demanding, but has not seen, a credible Israeli plan to move civilians out of harm's way in Rafah. The city had around 200,000 residents before the war began, but now has more than 1 million, many living in tent camps.

The Biden administration issued a national security memorandum in February which mandated the report on Israel and six other countries receiving weapons from the U.S., after congressional Democrats pushed Biden to determine whether Israel is violating domestic and international law in its war with Hamas.

The report and the memorandum from February does not have the legal teeth that would require the U.S. to stop arms transfers even if a country violates international law or has a more likely than not chance of doing so.

Biden and the Congress have the option to take further action. But Sarah Harrison, a senior analyst specializing in U.S. foreign policy at the International Crisis Group, said she doesn't expect that to happen.

The report, she said, "could make it harder for him to defend the unconditional assistance approach," Harrison said. But she emphasized the report does not require a change in his policy. "It's up to the president. It's still discretionary."

Meanwhile, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained repeatedly that he will not bow to pressure from anywhere, including the White House.

The report presents further questions as to how Biden will navigate his tense relationship with Netanyahu. But Harrison said little has actually changed in Biden's policy, particularly on Rafah.

"He's threatening to change it, but not actually changing it," she said. "There are operations ongoing in Rafah, so it's not even clear what his red line is."

U.S. report says it's 'reasonable to assess' that Israel has violated humanitarian law (2024)

FAQs

U.S. report says it's 'reasonable to assess' that Israel has violated humanitarian law? ›

A U.S. State Department report said Friday it was "reasonable to assess" that Israel has violated international humanitarian law while carrying out military operations in Gaza. But the report stopped short of drawing any final or sweeping conclusions about Israeli conduct in the war against Hamas.

What war crimes has Israel been accused of? ›

Israel was also accused of several other war crimes, including starvation, arbitrary detention, and the killing and maiming of “tens of thousands of children”. The report also said Israel had weaponised a "total siege" which limited power, food and water to civilians, which it said amounted to "collective punishment".

Was Palestine a country before Israel? ›

While the State of Israel was established on 15 May 1948 and admitted to the United Nations, a Palestinian State was not established. The remaining territories of pre-1948 Palestine, the West Bank - including East Jerusalem- and Gaza Strip, were administered from 1948 till 1967 by Jordan and Egypt, respectively.

Is Israel a country or a nation? ›

Israel, the only Jewish nation in the world, is a small country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. For its relatively small size, the country has played a large role in global affairs.

How many Israelis have died since 2000? ›

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Anti-Defamation League, a total of 1,194 Israelis and foreigners were killed and 7,000 wounded between September 2000 and August 2010 by Palestinian terror attacks (most of them during 2000–2005 Second Intifada); while more than 3,000 Israelis have been ...

How many international laws has Israel violated? ›

Laws Violated: Israel has violated 28 resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (which are legally binding on member-nations U.N. Charter, Article 25 (1945); a few sample resolutions - 54, 111, 233, 234, 236, 248, 250, 252, 256, 262, 267, 270, 280, 285, 298, 313, 316, 468, 476, etc.

Has Israel violated the Geneva Convention? ›

The counter offence by Israel has not only destroyed the Hamas launchpads but also the civilian targets in northern Gaza. Beyond the breach of the Geneva Conventions, Israel has plausibly violated its international human rights violation as well.

What was Palestine called in the Bible? ›

The name was familiar to their ancient neighbours, occurring in Egyptian as Purusati, in Assyrian as Palastu, and in the Hebrew Bible as Peleshet (Exodus 14:14; Isaiah 14:29, 31; Joel 3:4). In the English authorized version, Peleshet is rendered Palestina or, in Joel only, Palestine.

What was Israel originally called? ›

Under the British Mandate (1920–1948), the whole region was known as Palestine.

Why did Britain give Palestine to Israel? ›

In 1917, in order to win Jewish support for Britain's First World War effort, the British Balfour Declaration promised the establishment of a Jewish national home in Ottoman-controlled Palestine.

Why does Google support Israel? ›

Known as Project Nimbus, the joint contract between Google and Amazon signed in 2021 aims to provide cloud computing infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology services to the Israeli government and its military, which has faced condemnation for its war on Gaza, described by United Nations ...

Which countries do not consider Israel as a country? ›

28 UN member states do not recognize Israel: 15 members of the Arab League (Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen); ten non-Arab members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, ...

How many non-Jews live in Israel? ›

Demographics of Israel
Demographics of Israel (including Israelis in West Bank)
Major ethnicJews (7,208,000, 73.6%)
Minor ethnicArabs (2,080,000, 21.1%) Other (non-Jewish, non-Arab) 554,000 (5.7%)
Language
OfficialHebrew
26 more rows

Who started the war between Israel and Palestine? ›

Following the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948, the Arab League decided to intervene on behalf of Palestinian Arabs, marching their forces into former British Palestine, beginning the main phase of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

Why is Gaza being attacked? ›

Hamas said its attack was in response to the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, as well as alleged threats to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the plight of Palestinian refugees and prisoners.

Is Gaza's death toll accurate? ›

But top humanitarian organizations and leading experts say that the numbers from the health ministry have historically proven reliable. The ministry's tally is largely calculated via hospital records, and it releases casualty updates every couple of hours.

Which Israeli president went to jail? ›

The sentencing phase began on 22 February 2011. On 22 March 2011, Moshe Katsav was sentenced to seven years in prison and two years' probation for rape, indecent acts, sexual harassment and obstruction of justice, becoming the first former President of Israel to be sentenced to prison.

What were Israeli reprisals? ›

Reprisal operations were carried out following raids by armed infiltrators into Israel during the entire period from 1948 Arab–Israeli War until October 1956. Most of Reprisal operations followed raids that resulted in Israeli fatalities. From 1949 to 1954 the reprisal operations were directed against Jordan.

Does Israel prosecute children in military courts? ›

Israel does not release numbers of detainees in its military system and is the only country in the world that automatically and systematically prosecutes children in military courts. Save the Children has said the practice of detaining children was a long-standing human rights concern.

Why is Israel at war with Hamas? ›

Hamas said its attack was in response to the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, as well as alleged threats to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the plight of Palestinian refugees and prisoners.

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