US said to be investigating Israeli strikes for possible breaches of international law

The US is investigating several Israeli airstrikes that killed civilians as part of a broader probe into the use of American-supplied weapons in the war against Hamas, according to the Wall Street Journal.

One of the incidents being investigated by State Department is a 31 October is an Israeli strike on the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza with a 2,000lb bomb, which may have been provided by the US, that killed more than 125 people, according to US officials.

The United Nations said that strike, among others, could constitute a war crime. The investigation is said to be concerned with assessing whether Israel has complied with international law.

News of the investigation comes as president Joe Biden comes under increasing pressure from within his own party over his unconditional support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The president has described Israel’s campaign, which has killed some 28,000 Palestinians, as “over the top,” but his officials have ruled out conditioning future US support to Israel to influence Israel’s conduct.

It is unclear, however, whether the probe will lead to any meaningful US policy change or consequences for one of America’s closest allies. State Department spokesman Matt Miller said on Tuesday that the process was “not intended to function as a rapid response mechanism.”

“Rather, it is designed to systematically assess civilian harm incidents and develop appropriate policy responses to reduce the risk of such incidents occurring in the future,” he said, according to the WSJ.

The strike on the Jabalia is ranked as one of the worst civilian casualty events of the entire war, which was launched by Israel in response to a Hamas attack that killed some 1,200 people. Israeli’s retaliation has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

At a briefing attended by The Independent, Israeli military officials said the strike was aimed at eliminating Hamas commander Ibrahim Biari, which justified the bombing.

“It was not only a legitimate military target but an important military target to strike – and all things were factored in including the possibility of non-combatants being affected,” IDF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said at the briefing.

The State Department is also investigating Israel’s possible use of white phosphorus in Lebanon in fighting against the militant group Hezbollah, the WSJ reported. Israel has said that its use of the highly flammable compound complies with international law.

The reports of US investigations into Israeli strikes were first reported by HuffPost, which also noted that the White House had previously denied knowledge of such an investigation.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in January that he was “not aware of any kind of formal assessment being done by the United States government to analyze the compliance with international law by our partner Israel.”

“We have not seen anything that would convince us that we need to take a different approach in terms of trying to help Israel defend itself,” he added.

The US senate passed a bipartisan emergency spending package on Tuesday that would give around $14.1 billion to support Israel and US military operations in the Middle East. Some $4 billion would boost Israel’s air defences.

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