The United States is Not Just a Bystander in Israel-Gaza Violence

July 14, 2014

U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three  medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo Credit:  Amnesty International)
U.S.-made Hellfire missile linked to killing of a child and three medics in Gaza by Israeli forces during operation Cast Lead, January 4, 2009. (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

This past week, Israel has been carrying out air strikes and other military operations that have resulted in scores of deaths and injuries, most of them civilians not directly participating in hostilities.

The U.S., as the largest foreign supplier of weapons, munitions, police equipment and devices, as well as training and techniques to Israel, bears a particular responsibility for the deployment of the weapons it provides.

Amnesty International is calling for a U.N.-mandated international investigation into violations committed on all sides amidst ongoing Israeli air strikes on Gaza and continuing volleys of indiscriminate rocket fire from Palestinian armed groups into Israel.  Amnesty is also calling for a UN-imposed comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups.

In conjunction with that effort, Amnesty International USA urges the U.S. government to suspend transfers of munitions, weapons, crowd control devices, and military training to Israel.

U.S. arms transfers should not resume until and unless Israel stops violating human rights across the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure that these transfers will not be used to commit or facilitate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Israel must also put in place credible accountability processes for past violations.

During this latest military operation, both Israel and leaders of Hamas are resorting to the same rhetoric and many of the same military tactics used during previous military operations. The international community cannot sit idly by, allowing the number of civilian deaths and injuries to climb without any real response.

Since July 7th, more than 172 Palestinians in Gaza have died due to these strikes and some 1140 have been injured, many seriously. The United Nations estimates seventy-seven percent (77%) of those killed are civilians; over twenty percent (21%) – children.

Thousands in Israel, including children, live under the fear and threat of rocket fire from Gaza. They seek shelter when the sirens wail – day or night. These rockets violate international law because of their indiscriminate nature. Fortunately, no Israelis have been killed and only a handful have been injured so far.

Over the years, Amnesty International, has documented the link between U.S. arms and Israeli violations.  U.S.-made F-16s, Hellfire missiles, drones, U.S.-issued Caterpillar bulldozers, Apache helicopters and other equipment have been directly linked to violations by Israeli forces of international humanitarian and human rights law. Yet, the U.S. continues to supply weapons to Israel. Knowing this, the U.S. is violating its own laws and policies, as well as (potentially) implicating itself in the commission of any future violations that may take place.

U.S. policy prohibits the provision of weapons where there is a credible expectation that they may be used in grave human rights violations.

Amid renewed hostilities and continued failure by both sides to provide accountability, Amnesty International is again calling for an international arms embargo on Israel, Hamas, and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip. The goal is to prevent further serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by the parties to the conflict.

Amnesty International USA is again calling on the U.S. government to act in accordance with its own laws and policies concerning weapons transfers by stopping its flow of weapons to Israel. (Read our earlier letter to Congress, June 26, 2014.)

Co-Written by members of the Military, Security, Police Coordination Group (including Susan Waltz, Diego Zavala, Jillian Foster, Nate Smith and Colby Goodman) and Sunjeev Bery, Middle East & North Africa Advocacy Director, for Amnesty International USA.