US orders ‘assurances’ from nations receiving American weapons
In a memorandum issued on Thursday night, US President Joe Biden emphasized that nations receiving American weapons must comply with international law.
The executive order mandates that foreign governments accepting military aid furnish written assurances of their adherence to the laws of war. This directive follows the acknowledgment by the president that Israel’s response to Gaza had exceeded acceptable bounds.
Israel has been the largest beneficiary of US military aid since 1950. President Biden stressed the necessity for “credible and reliable written assurances” from foreign governments receiving American weapons, ensuring their use aligns with international law.
Additionally, these governments must guarantee that US humanitarian aid reaches civilian populations affected by conflict.
The memorandum mandates periodic sharing of this information with Congress and the President. All 100 countries receiving US weapons must sign these assurances within the next 180 days, while those embroiled in active conflicts, including Israel, have a 45-day window to respond.
The memorandum outlines remediation measures if issues arise, which could range from refreshing assurances to suspending further transfers of defense articles or services.
Despite administration officials clarifying that the order does not target any specific country, it comes in the wake of Democratic lawmakers expressing concerns about Israel’s military actions in Gaza and their alignment with international law.
Senator Chris Van Hollen, a leading advocate in Congress for enforcing adherence to international law among military aid recipients, applauded the move, expressing hope that it would provide leverage for ensuring compliance, particularly from the Netanyahu government in Israel.
Israel’s military campaign was prompted by a 7 October Hamas attack on Israeli territory that killed 1,300 people, according to Israeli officials. Another 250 people were taken hostage.
Since Israel’s retaliatory offensive, more than 27,800 Palestinians have been killed and at least 67,000 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Aerial footage of Gaza shows that at least half of the besieged territory’s buildings have been damaged or destroyed. About 1.7 million people – more than 80% of Gaza’s population – are displaced.
The flow of aid to Gaza’s civilian population has also been significantly limited since the start of the war in October, with UN officials warning repeatedly that many are at risk of famine.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military has been told to prepare to operate in Rafah, a city bordering Egypt where 1.5 million Palestinians have been sheltering.
Mr Netanyahu added that “total victory” by Israel over Hamas was just months away.
In response, the US warned on Thursday that staging a military offensive into the city without proper planning would be a “disaster”.
The White House added that it would not support major operations without due consideration for the refugees there.
On Friday, Mr Netanyahu said he ordered the Israeli military to prepare a plan to evacuate the population of Rafah ahead of its expected invasion.
He said he asked officials to present a “double plan” that would include the evacuation of civilians and a military operation to “collapse” remaining Hamas militant units.