May 14, 2024 | Flash Brief

Blinken’s Report to Congress Highlights Israel’s Robust Law of War Compliance Framework

May 14, 2024 | Flash Brief

Blinken’s Report to Congress Highlights Israel’s Robust Law of War Compliance Framework

Latest Developments

The State Department’s May 10 report to Congress indicated that it could not conclude that Israel was violating international humanitarian law with U.S.-provided weapons in its war against Hamas. The report also provided a detailed description of Israel’s robust processes to investigate incidents of civilian casualties in Gaza and highlighted the lengths Israel goes to in order to limit civilian deaths.  

The report also included a section on whether Israel blocks humanitarian aid to Gazans, concluding that while there were challenges in delivering aid in a warzone, the State Department does “not currently assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance.”

Expert Analysis

“The report describes Israel’s robust system to reduce civilian casualties and concludes that the available information is insufficient to definitively identify even one specific Israeli violation of international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict. By contrast, the report notes that ‘Hamas does not follow any portion of and consistently violates’ international humanitarian law. The report adds that Hamas violations, including the use of human shields, make Gaza ‘as difficult a battlespace as any military has faced in modern warfare.’” Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“Aside from an extensive description of Israel’s robust system for self-investigation and accountability — which further disqualifies any International Criminal Court investigation — the report to Congress states unequivocally that there is no indication from the U.S. intelligence community that Israel targets civilians.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Israel’s Robust Internal Review Measures

The report noted the “extraordinary military challenge” faced by Israel as “Hamas embedded itself deliberately within and underneath the civilian population to use civilians as human shields” while holding Israeli hostages and calling for the destruction of Israel. In addition, the report described the Israeli government’s “processes for ensuring compliance with [international humanitarian law] that are embedded at all levels of their military decision-making” as well as the ability of the Israeli Supreme Court to “provide judicial review of past targeting and/or operation decisions made during armed conflict.”

The report noted that Israel appointed a retired major general and former head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Operations Directorate (J3) to lead independent investigations into incidents in Gaza. The current military advocate general, Yifat Romer-Yerushalmi, told the United States that she was investigating incidents where IDF soldiers have been accused of contravening IDF protocols and international humanitarian law.

No Indication Israel Targets Civilians

The report cited specific incidents where U.S.-provided weapons have allegedly been used “in a manner not consistent with international law” in Gaza. However, the report concluded that “[g]iven the nature of the conflict in Gaza, with Hamas seeking to hide behind civilian populations and infrastructure and expose them to Israeli military action, as well as the lack of U.S. government personnel on the ground in Gaza, it is difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents.”

The report also stated that the U.S. intelligence community “has no direct indication of Israel intentionally targeting civilians.”

Reports Claim U.S. Delaying Munitions to Send Message to Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

How to Ensure Israel Has the Weapons It Needs,” by Bradley Bowman and Richard Goldberg

Explaining the moral case for backing Israel may help Biden in Nov. elections,” by Enia Krivine

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International Organizations Israel Israel at War Lawfare