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Israel May Be Breaching International Law In Gaza, Say US Officials In Memo

Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. REUTERS/Ciro De Luca/Pool

Growing strains between the US and Israel are likely to widen, as a Reuters report has revealed that an internal US State Department memo has shown senior US officials as stating they do not find “credible or reliable” Tel Aviv’s assurances that it is using US weapons in accordance with international law. The memo, which was sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, shows the ongoing internal struggles within the Biden administration as to their response to Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza. Some US officials within the administration, have already resigned over the issue.

Under the National Security Memorandum (NSM) Blinken will have to report to Congress by May 8 as to whether he finds credible Israel’s assurances that its use of US weapons does not violate US or international law. Israel has already been taken to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by South Africa which has accused it of violating the Genocide Convention.

Though the ICJ has not provided a final judgment, it did provide an interim judgment earlier this year where it stated that “at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the (Genocide) Convention.” Though the judgment is not binding, legal experts did see this as a blow to Israel’s international standing.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the charge of genocide levelled against Israel was “outrageous” and said it would do whatever is necessary to defend itself. Israel had an “unwavering commitment” to international law, he said.

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Though President Biden has been a key supporter of Israel in its fight to eradicate Hamas, differences between the US and Israel have come up over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s threatened invasion of Rafah. The US called on it to set aside plans for an assault, and said Israel could combat Hamas fighters there by other means.

“We could not support a Rafah ground operation without an appropriate, credible, executable humanitarian plan precisely because of the complications for delivery of assistance,” David Satterfield, U.S. special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues had told reporters.

“We continue discussions with Israel on what we believe are alternate ways of addressing a challenge which we recognise which is Hamas military present in Rafah.”

(With inputs from Reuters)