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U.S. Criticizes Israel for Failure to Protect Civilians in the Gaza Conflict

The Biden administration believes that Israel has most likely violated international standards in failing to protect civilians in Gaza but has not found specific instances that would justify the withholding of military aid, the State Department told Congress on Friday.

In the administration’s most detailed assessment of Israel’s conduct in Gaza, the State Department said in a written report that Israel “has the knowledge, experience and tools to implement best practices for mitigating civilian harm in its military operations.”

But it added that “the results on the ground, including high levels of civilian casualties, raise substantial questions” as to whether the Israel Defense Forces are making sufficient use of those tools.

Even so, the report — which seemed at odds with itself in places — said the U.S. had no hard proof of Israeli violations. It noted the difficulty of collecting reliable information from Gaza, Hamas’s tactic of operating in civilian areas, and the fact that “Israel has not shared complete information to verify” whether U.S. weapons have been used in specific incidents alleged to have involved human rights law violations.

The report, mandated by President Biden, also makes a distinction between the general possibility that Israel has violated the law and any conclusions about specific incidents that would prove it. It deems that assurances Israel provided in March that it would use U.S. arms consistent with international law are “credible and reliable,” and thus allow the continued flow of U.S. military aid.

The conclusions are unrelated to Mr. Biden’s recent decision to delay the delivery to Israel of 3,500 bombs and his review of other weapons shipments. The president has said those actions were in response to Israel’s stated plans to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

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