Biden Admin Investigating Israel For Possibly Misusing Weaponry In Counteroffensive

(Photo by MOSAB SHAWER/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Biden administration is investigating Israel for potentially misusing American weapons as well as its use of a chemical agent in its war against Hamas, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday.

Israel is carrying out a sweeping counteroffensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the terrorist group’s attacks on Oct. 7 that left over 1,200 civilians dead. The Biden administration is investigating Israel regarding its potential misuse of weaponry in Gaza and Lebanon, some of which could have been provided by the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. (RELATED: Israel Releases Footage Of The Daring Operation That Freed Two Hostages)

The Biden administration and the Israeli government’s relationship has become increasingly strained over disagreements on how the war in Gaza should be carried out and what the region should look like after the war concludes. There is an ongoing debate in Congress as to whether conditions should be tied to U.S. military aid to Israel, and the conclusion of the investigations could bolster the case of one side or the other, according to the WSJ.

“Very senior U.S. officials will need to take the findings seriously and act on them,” Sarah Yager, former human rights advisor to the Department of Defense, told WSJ. “This kind of trust of policymakers to do the right thing has a history of not working out so well. Let’s see.”

One investigation that is being carried out by the State Department revolves around an Israeli airstrike on Oct. 31 that killed over 125 civilians in a Jabalia refugee camp close to Gaza City, according to the WSJ. Investigators think a 2,000-pound bomb was used in the strike, which potentially was provided by the U.S.

Israeli officials say they tried to avoid civilian casualties in the Oct. 31 strike by equipping the bomb with a delay fuse that allowed it to detonate underground, according to the WSJ. They did not say what specific kind of bomb was used in the airstrike.

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. US President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023 as Middle East anger flared after hundreds were killed when a rocket struck a hospital in war-torn Gaza, with Israel and the Palestinians quick to trade blame. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The State Department is also investigating Israel’s possible use of white phosphorus in attacks against the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon in October, according to the WSJ. White phosphorus is a highly flammable chemical compound and is illegal to use in certain settings; it can be used in war to create a “smoke screen” effect but cannot be used against civilians due to its toxicity and high burning temperature.

Lebanon claims that white phosphorus was used in several attacks by Israel in October, according to the WSJ. Israel says its use of white phosphorus aligns with what is allowed under international law.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told the Daily Caller News Foundation that all military activity and weapons usage “complies and goes beyond the requirements of international law.”

“The IDF uses only legal weapons and ammunition. The primary smoke-screen shells used by the IDF do not contain white phosphorus,” the IDF told the DCNF. “Like many Western militaries, the IDF also possesses smoke-screen shells that include white phosphorous that are legal under international law. These shells are used by the IDF for creating smoke screens and not for targeting or causing fires and are not defined under law as incendiary weapons. IDF procedures require that such shells are not used in densely populated areas, subject to certain exceptions.”

The Biden administration has refrained from tying conditions to military aid for Israel thus far. Investigators could suggest adding conditions to Israeli military aid if they determine that Israel violated international law or used weaponry illegally, according to the WSJ.

“We’ve been clear with Israel in the past about how they should and shouldn’t use white phosphorus,” former State Department official Josh Paul told the WSJ. “That’s an obvious one because we’ve said it before.”

President Joe Biden is bleeding support from key voting blocs over his ongoing support for Israel’s counteroffensive. Roughly 75% of young voters (18 to 29 years of age), a demographic that usually votes Democrat, disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Gaza crisis and the Israel-Hamas war, according to a New York Times poll in December.

“There will always be debates of proportionality,” Assaf Orion, senior researcher at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, told the WSJ. “The risk here is of course that whatever the findings, Hamas and other parties will use the mere investigation to prejudge and smear Israel, seeking to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Israel.”

The IDF and State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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