US slams Israel's use of American weapons in Gaza

AFP , Saturday 11 May 2024

The United States has issued a stunning criticism of Israel's use of American weapons in its war on Gaza after Israeli forces intensified attacks around the southern city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

File photo: Israeli soldiers take position near the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel. AP


Israel's main international ally said in a report released Friday that it was "reasonable to assess" that Israel has used weapons in instances “inconsistent” with its obligations under international humanitarian law “or with best practices for mitigating civilian harm” during the seven-month war.

But the long-awaited State Department report said it could not reach "conclusive findings" and stopped short of blocking weapons shipments.

Relations between the two allies slumped earlier in the week after US President Joe Biden said he would halt some arms deliveries if Israel went ahead with a full-scale assault on Rafah threatened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US has warned that the reputational damage Israel will suffer if it storms a city where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinian civilians are sheltering will far outweigh any possible military gain.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Friday that Gaza risked an "epic humanitarian disaster" if Israel launched a full-scale ground operation in Rafah, while Germany warned against a "major offensive" and France urged Israel to cease its operations in Rafah "without delay".

Netanyahu struck a defiant tone on Thursday, vowing: "If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone."

The White House renewed its opposition Friday but said it saw no major operation yet against the city.

"We're obviously watching it with concern, of course, but I wouldn't go so far as to say what we've seen here in the last 24 hours connotes or indicates a broad, large (or) major ground operation," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Earlier this week, Israeli ground troops seized eastern areas of the city, including the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, but they have yet to enter its main built-up area.

AFP journalists witnessed strikes in several parts of Gaza early Saturday, after reporting artillery strikes on Rafah a day earlier.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed at least 34,943 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Displaced again

Israel's military operations around Rafah have already had a severe impact on Gaza civilians, UN agencies said.

More than 100,000 people, many of them already displaced from other areas of Gaza, have fled Rafah this week, the United Nations said.

Many have returned to the city of Khan Younis, where intense Israeli bombardment and ground incursions raged earlier this year, or are crowded into shelters along the coast in the central town of Deir al-Balah.

Displaced civilian Malek al-Zaza said he had found "no food" and "no water" in central Gaza's Nuseirat refugee camp.

"No one is asking about us, no one is looking for us... We only have God looking out for us," he said.

The Rafah crossing, which Israeli troops closed on Tuesday, is the only one normally used for deliveries of fuel, and the United Nations said the resulting exhaustion of stocks inside Gaza had effectively halted aid agency operations.

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, said it had delivered 200,000 litres of fuel to Gaza on Friday using a different crossing.

Israeli authorities have often claimed to provide much-needed aid to the Palestinian territory besieged by Israel without providing any proper mechanism to deliver the aid to civilians amid its non-stop bombardment.

Tonnes of aid have been seen piling up near several border crossings as Palestinian civilians in Gaza face an Israel-made famine.

Back to 'square one'

Israeli and Hamas negotiating teams left Cairo on Thursday after what Egypt called a "two-day round" of indirect negotiations on the terms of a Gaza truce.

Hamas said that Israel's rejection of a truce plan submitted by mediators at the talks had sent the negotiations back to "square one".

In New York, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Friday in support of a Palestinian bid for full membership of the world body, a symbolic move after the United States vetoed the measure in the Security Council.

The resolution, which states that the Palestinians should be admitted to the UN and grants them some additional rights as observers, received 143 votes for, nine against and 25 abstentions.

The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority said the UN vote showed Palestine "deserves full membership".

Richard Gowan, an analyst with Brussels-based think tank the International Crisis Group, said the resolution sent "a very clear signal to Israel and the US that it is time to take Palestinian statehood seriously".

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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