Leaked internal memos from both the State Department and the U.S. agency tasked with providing civilian foreign aid reportedly warn that Israel is breaching a White House directive by continuing to block U.S. aid into Gaza ― a violation that legally requires President Joe Biden to suspend military assistance to the country whose offensive in the Palestinian enclave nears seven months.

In February, Biden issued National Security Memorandum-20 (NSM-20) after a growing number of Democratic lawmakers began questioning whether Israel was adhering to international law while using U.S.-provided weapons in Gaza. Under NSM-20, Israel and other U.S. weapons recipients are required to provide assurances that it would not violate international humanitarian law, including restricting humanitarian assistance. Israel made that pledge on March 25.

Though NSM-20 imposes no new legal requirements, it also asks Secretary of State Antony Blinken to report to Congress by May 8 on whether he believes Israel has complied with the assurances.

But an internal State Department memo ― obtained by Reuters and published Saturday ― was jointly submitted to Blinken, and included four bureaus who said they do not find “credible or reliable” the Israeli government’s pledge that its military is using weapons supplied by the U.S. in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The senior officials reportedly cited eight examples of Israeli military action in the memo that could be considered such violations ― including the repeated bombing of protected sites and civilian infrastructure, a massive level of civilian harm, the lack of accountability for those who cause significant civilian harm, and the killing of journalists and humanitarian workers. The bureaus also cited nearly a dozen instances that the Israeli military would “arbitrarily restrict humanitarian aid,” according to Reuters.

“The State Department’s leaked confirmation that Israel has restricted the transport and delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance leaves no doubt: U.S. law requires the suspension of military aid to Israel,” DAWN Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement on Saturday.

“For too long, the Biden administration has breached or ignored U.S. laws that require the suspension of aid to an abusive regime like Israel, fueling Israeli belligerence and rewarding its atrocities,” she continued. “It’s time for real consequences.”

The Reuters report on the leaked State Department memo came one day after an internal assessment by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was obtained and published by media outlet Devex. In the assessment, cleared by 10 USAID officials before being sent to Blinken, the agency reportedly concluded that Israel “does not currently demonstrate necessary compliance” with the NSM-20 requirement that it not impede “the transport of delivery of United States humanitarian assistance,” as well as U.S.-supported international efforts to provide relief.

Last week, a task force made up of international law and policy experts sent a report to Blinken concluding that Israel’s siege on Gaza and its blocking of U.S. aid violate Section 620I of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. The 1996 law is meant to ensure U.S. taxpayer-funded aid reaches who it’s actually meant for.

Under Section 620I, the U.S. government must immediately suspend any military assistance to any country that blocks U.S. humanitarian assistance. The task force asked Blinken to conduct a review of Israel’s compliance with the law, but the reported findings in Saturday’s leaked State Department memo likely already qualify military assistance to be withheld.

“Section 620I has been rendered toothless by State Department inaction and special treatment for Israel,” DAWN advocacy director Raed Jarrar said on Saturday. “Today’s leak should mark a final end to this impunity. President Biden has no choice but to fully enforce the law and halt aid to Israel.”

While the White House has not commented on the memos, the Biden administration has repeatedly and publicly claimed that Israel has not violated international law, going so far as to defend the country facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

Israel launched its military offensive after Hamas attacked the country on Oct. 7, killing roughly 1,200 people and taking about 250 others hostage ― half of whom were released during a temporary cease-fire last year, and 30 of the remaining hostages are presumed dead. Since then, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, wounded about 75,000 more, displaced most families and created a man-made famine by blocking aid.

On Sunday, the White House said that Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reiterate his “clear position” against Israel’s plan to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and stressed that the increase in humanitarian aid delivery must be “sustained and enhanced.”

“From bombing residential towers to blocking food and medicine, Israel’s war on Gaza has been marked by utter disregard for civilian life and international law,” Jarrar said. “Suspending military aid is the bare minimum the U.S. must do to avoid further complicity in these abuses. But it’s an essential first step to show that even Israel is not above the law.”


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