While American officials say they are not making judgments in real-time about whether Israel is abiding by the laws of war, the U.S. has gathered intelligence that might allow it to make such assessments.
The U.S. has collected intelligence and formulated detailed assessments related to both Israel and Hamas military movements and tactics in Gaza since the war began in October, according to two people familiar with the intelligence. That has included data on targeting by both sides, the weapons they appear to be using and the potential number of people killed in their ranks.
That information has been shared with members of Congress in several briefings, including with the members of the intelligence committees, the people said. Both individuals were granted anonymity to detail a sensitive issue.
State Department officials are also collecting reports of potential Israeli violations through a system unveiled in August called the Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance, or CHIRG, according to Josh Paul, who quit the department over concerns about its approach to the war. Paul said some officials within the department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs have asked State’s legal wing to “provide information about their potential international law exposure as a result of approving these sales.”
That suggests that when President Joe Biden reiterated Tuesday that Israel was using “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza — a breach of international humanitarian law — he was likely speaking about information he had. And his administration appears to have some of the data it would need to determine whether or not Israel is violating global rules of war.
“Here you have the president of the United States essentially accusing Israel of committing war crimes, while his administration refuses to conduct a thoroughgoing assessment of whether or not Israel’s military campaign in Gaza is consistent with the law of war,” said Brian Finucane, previously a State Department lawyer who now advises the International Crisis Group. [Continue reading…]