State Department disputes Israel is ‘restricting’ supplies to Gaza, but wants more aid heading to Palestinians

US wants to see more aid, but simultaneously says it isn’t being ‘restricted’ by Israel

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 13 May 2024 22:24 BST
State Department argues Israel not ‘restricting’ aid to Gaza

A State Department spokesman pushed back against the assertion the Israeli government was “restricting” aid to Gaza as reports of dehydration and starvation continue and videos depict humanitarian convoys being targeted in Israel.

Vedant Patel asserted several times at Monday’s briefing it was not fair to say the Israeli government was prohibiting aid into Gaza despite a previous State Department-authored report had found there to be “reasonable” evidence to find that Israeli forces had violated international humanitarian law in various “instances.” If Israel did restrict aid, it would be in violation of the laws.

“We need to see more [aid get into Gaza]. But wanting to see more is very different than dealing with a situation in which a country is restricting the flow of aid. And we have not seen that in this case,” Patel told reporters.

Under the standard set out by international humanitarian law, Patel said, “we were not satisfied with what we were seeing” in aid crossings since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack that provoked hostilities in Gaza. But he reiterated that “we did not see a restriction or prohibition” of aid.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Kerem Shalom border crossing in southern Israel
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Kerem Shalom border crossing in southern Israel (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Even today, Patel said, “we don’t see enough going in.” But it doesn’t rise to the level of “restricting” the aid, according to the Biden administration. Confusingly, he also conceded that “certainly” Israel could have taken steps it took to increase the flow of aid “six months ago,” as a reporter suggested.

His remarks come as videos from the Kerem Shalom crossing have shown aid convoys bound for Gaza held up at the Israeli border while gangs of rightwing extremist rioters and thugs attempt to destroy or damage the desperately-needed humanitarian supplies.

The State Department’s increasingly questioned position comes after a presdiential directive that led to the aid report. Under US law, the federal government is required to verify to Congress that recipients of US arms-related assistance do not use those weapons or munitions to commit war crimes.

Democrats in the president’s party are increasingly voicing concerns about that issue, even as Israel-boosters in its own party, such as Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, push back and argue that Israel has the right to fight a war on its terms.

Maryland’s Chris Van Hollen, one of the most vocal of those critics, told CBS News on Sunday:”I fear that we have set...a very low standard for what’s acceptable. And I think that will come back to haunt us.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was forced to face some of those criticisms over the weekend in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he was asked whether the Biden administration has held a “double standard” on Israel allowing its ally to get away with violations of international law by which other countries abide.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters on 17 July 2023
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters on 17 July 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

“Mr Secretary, is the US trying to avoid holding Israel accountable for its actions?” asked NBC’s Kristen Welker in the interview.

“No. We don’t have double standards,” Mr Blinked replied. “We treat Israel, one of our closest allies and partners, just as we would treat any other country, including in assessing something like international humanitarian law, and its compliance with that law.”

International health authorities estimate that more than 35,000 people have died in Gaza since the beginning of Israel’s brutal military assault. A terrorist attack beginning the war in October of last year left more than 1,100 dead, the deadliest attack in Israel’s history.

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